Thursday, October 1, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
1. Doozo Dumplings & Noodles
2. Droubi's Brothers Mediterranean
3. Corner Bakery Cafe
4. Beck's Prime
5. Otto's Barbecue & Hamburgers
Thursday, June 18, 2009
1. Collina's Italian Cafe
2. Thai Spice Asian Cuisine
3. Ruggles Cafe Bakery
4. Vietnam Restaurant
Monday, April 13, 2009
Hands down, the best brunch in Houston. Before I tried Bedford -- a relatively new, upscale restaurant in the Heights -- I was skeptical, having heard mixed reviews. Most of the criticisms related to itsservice and timeliness of the food. I can't say that I'm surprised -- I had a horrible experience with Chef Gadsby when he was head chef at Soma. He singlehandedly ruined a 10-person tasting dinner that was sure to be, in his words, "the most amazing food experience of your lives." It didn't matter that every item on the pre-set, 10-course menu was tasty because we waited for an hour before receiving our first morsel of food! But I begrudgingly tried Bedford for the first time at a birthday dinner -- I didn't really have a choice because it wasn't my birthday! I will save the dinner blog for another post, but suffice it to say, Chef Gadsby and the Bedford staff blew me away.
2. Backstreet Cafe
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
1. Dolce Vita ($$)
2. Benjy’s ($$$)
3. Lucio’s ($$)
4. Azuma ($$)
With wine being all the rage right now, it seems like every guy around knows all about grape varietals and wine lists. SO NOT TRUE! Most guys are super intimidated by the pressure of ordering a bottle of wine on a date, especially on the first few dates. If you are an expert wine guy, this post is not for you. But if you don’t know a lot about wine but still want to impress, here are my suggestions:
I. Selecting the Wine:
As Billy Joel opines, it all depends on your date’s appetite. Unless there is a completely legitimate reason why you can’t bring yourself to drink one of the two, ask whether she prefers red or white. Go with her preference. More than likely, she’ll say she likes both and will defer to you – if she doesn’t, there’s your first high-maintenance red flag. If neither of you wants to step up with a preference, follow these general guidelines: at a seafood restaurant, white is your best choice; at a steak restaurant, you go with red. Anything in between, is up in the air, but in my experience, red usually wins out as the crowd favorite.
White wine options:
- Generally speaking, a sauvignon blanc is the best bang for your buck. They are more reasonably priced than chardonnays and go well with most foods. If you don’t recognize any of the sauvignon blancs on the menu, go with a mid-priced one from the Napa Valley/California. Duckhorn and Honig make two of the all-time best sauvignon blancs.
- If she is a chardonnay kind of girl, once again, I recommend a mid-priced one from the Napa Valley/California. Cakebread is one of the best chardonnays out there, but it is a little pricey. La Crema is a good, mid-range option.
- I would stay away from Riesling, gerwertztraminer, and the like. They are awesome wines, but you really need to know about them to pair them with food.
- UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, SHOULD YOU EVER ORDER WHITE ZINFINDEL. IT IS OFF LIMITS.
Red wine options:
- Once again, generally speaking, a (red) zinfandel is the best bang for your buck. The movie Sideways made pinot noirs more popular than ever and caused their prices to jack up. Zinfandel, on the other hand, is not as well known but pairs remarkably well with most foods and is very easy to drink. You’ll usually find at least one or two zinfandels on most menus, and I’ve never met a zinfandel I didn’t like. Ravenswood Zinfandel is on a lot of restaurant wine lists, and is usually very reasonable yet tasty. In short, go to the red wine list, look for the zinfandels and pick a mid-priced one. You won’t go wrong and will save a few bucks.
- Most girls love pinot noirs. They pair well with food and are easy to drink. If she doesn’t like heavy wines, go with the pinot noir. There should be a number of options to choose from on the list – go with any from the Willamette Valley/Oregon or the Russian River Valley/California. One of my friends once joked that pinot noir translates into “panty remover”… enough said.
- Shirazs/Syrahs are also good options and are usually more reasonably priced than pinot noirs. Any Shiraz from New Zealand or Australia should be safe, and any Napa Valley Syrah will be passable.
- If she likes heavy wines or you are at a steak place, go with the cabernet sauvignon. These can get very pricey, so I recommend, once again, going with a mid-priced Napa Valley/California varietal.
- Merlots are difficult. Sideways totally poured out the merlot, so people think it is a faux pas to drink merlot these days. But merlot is actually a very drinkable wine and because of its declining popularity, the price point is usually very good. Nevertheless, I’d stay away from ordering the merlot for the first few dates; wait until you know her a little better and then order it. Save the money you’d spend on a cab or pinot once you’ve already sealed the deal.
- At an Italian restaurant, skip the Super Tuscan and Barolo and go for the Chianti. They are cheap and easy to drink. Usually, the house Chianti will do just fine, but you can upgrade to a mid-range Chianti for a great tasting wine.
II. Tasting the Wine
You probably question the utility of the pomp and circumstance associated with ordering a bottle of wine. It may seem like a complete waste of time, but if you get it right, you are sure to impress your date. And if you follow these steps, you'll end up with a drinkable bottle of wine:
- Once you’ve selected the wine, your server should present the bottle to you. Take a look at it to make sure it’s what you ordered (and if you decided to splurge on an expensive bottle, make sure they gave you the correct vintage year, or they could be hosing you on the price), but don’t stare at it like you would Pamela Anderson. Simply glance at it and nod, and then focus your attention back on your date.
- Once your server uncorks the bottle, he will set the cork down next to you. Don’t smell the cork. Simply pick up the cork, touch the end that was inside the bottle to ensure that it is not dry, and look to make sure there isn’t a lot of wine running down the sides of the cork (which usually means the wine is skunked). If the cork checks out, it’s time to taste.
- If you really want to look big time, swirl the glass around on the table a little bit and then briefly sniff the inside of the glass. If you think that sounds ridiculous, just proceed to tasting it. Most people think that you are tasting it to make sure you like it, but you are actually tasting it to make sure it isn’t skunked. Unless you are at a super swank restaurant (and even then it’s questionable in my mind), you don’t send the wine back unless it is skunked/bad. So unless it tastes rancid, nod your head, tell your server it’s good, and then he’ll pour it into her glass.
- Don’t forget to do a quick toast, even if it’s just to say cheers. Chics dig this.
1. Hugo’s ($$$)
If you’re trying to impress, you won’t fail with Hugo’s. Margaritas are must at Hugo’s, and the best part is that you don’t have to waste your money on the top shelf version – their house margaritas rock! If you’re too big time to order “house” anything, try their Isidro or Gran Reposado Margaritas, both are to die for. To start, go with the queso flameado or the taquitos de pollo – consistent pleasers for any crowd. Someone in your party must order the Enchiladas Suizas – hands down their best dish. Their meat dishes are also outstanding, my personal favorite is the Cabrito (goat) dish. Save room for dessert – their chimmichuris, accompanied by an amazing hot cocoa dipping sauce, are worth the calories. Skinny options: (1) order one taquito de langosta and a cup of tortilla soup or the ceviche; (2) Hachinango a la Veracruzana (roasted red snapper with olives and capers).
2. El Tiempo ($$)
El Tiempo is Clutch City’s ultimate “go to” Mexican restaurant. It’s a great place to take a date, go for a fun birthday celebration, or bring an out-of-towner. Their queso is great and comes with those awesome flour tortilla chips, but their best appetizer is their crab and bacon quesadillas, which, in my opinion, are best served with their whole wheat tortillas. The fajitas – they have great chicken and beef fajitas but also have good game options (e.g., quail) and of course the pork fajitas – are among the best around. For those who are not interested in fajitas, their crabmeat enchiladas are remarkable. I am not a big fan of El Tiempo’s house margarita on the rocks – you really need to go with the platinum, but their frozen margaritas (regular or flavored) are great. Skinny option: grilled chicken fajitas with whole wheat or corn tortillas.
3. Ninfa’s on Navigation ($$)
Don’t shy away from this restaurant simply because of its chain restaurant name – this is the original Ninfa’s and is far better than any other Ninfa’s around. It has an authentic ambiance and is the opposite of pretentious. Everything on Mama Ninfa’s menu is good: the fajitas, tacos, and enchiladas are all consistent. This is the perfect place to introduce an out-of-towner to Tex Mex. Skinny option: chicken fajitas with corn tortillas.
4. Lupe Tortilla ($$)
There are two reasons to go to Lupe Tortilla: (1) hands down, they have the best beef fajitas in town; (2) it is very kid friendly. Lupe’s has a sandbox and play area for the kids to play in while the parents sip margaritas (their house frozen are passable) on the deck. If you like beef fajitas you have to try this place. You won’t be disappointed! Skinny option: skip the skinny option at Lupe’s; just do a little extra cardio so that you can enjoy the beef fajitas.