Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Houston...land of Blue Bell and...surprisingly good food.

Okay, let me just start by saying that my favorite coffee house (courtesy of Houstonian friend, Blaire) burned down on Halloween this year. Total cry time. It was adorable. In the Montrose district. And now sits aside a completely ruined antique shop.

On a happier note: my cousin took me to this place called Barnaby's on Sunday for lunch. This. Place. Is. Awesome. And for a California girl like me, I took much delight in seeing dishes named after San Diego, Petaluma, Mill Valley, and other California cities. Hehe. I'm a little California-centric...no shame. But really, this place is adorable. It's named after the owner's childhood sheepdog, and sports a very youthful atmosphere in a sophisticated way. They offer great homey dishes in astronomical proportions. Want a salad? You're going to need to split it to even make a dent. I got a guacamole and cheese burger with fries (California girl loves her some avocado, and needed a fix after turkey and cranberries galore all week). The cousin got a grilled chicken sandwich, and took half the chicken home to use atop a salad later in the week (note: huge portions, still). If you do go, ask to swap out the fries for sweet potato fries. I didn't realize this was an option until we were leaving. Drat! (Sorry...no pic....totally forgot in the pre-airport lunch scarf and scramble)

We (being the fam bam) grabbed lunch with some old friends at Niko Niko's on Friday...err...Saturday? The past week is a blur. Anywho...it's a total dive Greek restaurant on Montrose. But amazing in all the right ways. You order at the counter, they give you a buzzer, you find a seat, then when the buzzer rings, you scarf your falafel, gyros, whatever is Greek to your heart's content. I think it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and it does not surprise me one bit. This place was hopping and so much fun! It's a little like the Fuddrucker's of Greek food (though nothing tops Greek Town in Detroit).

Another Houston find is, again, thanks to Blaire: Ouisie's Table. Now, it's been almost 4 years since I've been there so I have no specifics for you but the atmosphere is great and I remember the food being...well...I don't remember any food going back to the kitchen if that says anything. It's definitely a more upscale local. Check it out!

And while you're in Texas, or the South, or some parts of the Southwest, please go to your nearest grocery story and get some Blue Bell Ice Cream. Even better, make a point to go to the factor. Below you will find my Texas family branch's emergency supply of Blue Bell. Yeah, they'er serious about their ice cream. And for a good reason, too!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Home for a Weekend

I went home last weekend for Veterans day. Whenever I go home, I expect to have a nice, relaxing weekend and this is NEVER the case. Friday was full of appointments and visiting a friend with a broken leg in San Francisco, so lunch was on the go. I'd been hearing about a new french cafe that opened up in my home town for about 6 months now, but had yet to experience it first hand so Friday was an opportunity to try it for myself.

I give you La Boulange, a cafe and bakery in Lafayette. I got their club sandwich, a side salad with balsamic, and a dirty chai (Chai with a shot of espresso...try it! It's amazing!)

(I finally realized I have a camera with me always...thank you, iPhone)

I scarfed half the sandwich in the car before getting a few minutes to eat the rest outside in the gorgeous Bay Area fall weather before an appointment. Holy, moly! It was amazing!

They also carry a HUGE assortment of breads, pastries, tarts, you name it. Apparently they're the go-to salad joint in Lafayette now, too. My salad was just lettuce and balsamic, but they've got a bunch of fancier ones on the menu as well.

The night before, my sister also brought home pear, grapefruit, pistachio tarts for the fam bam for dessert. Also glorious. The grapefruit was a little weird and added a bitterness that I wasn't crazy about, but if you handed me a tub of the pistachio base I'd be eating it for days--no joke. It's that good.

Well...that is all for now. Fall quarter is almost over at school, and I could not be happier for that. Cruising to the finish line in June after the new year begins. In the meantime, mostly eating in and on the go from home.

3597 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA 94549

Now I'm going to jump back in time a bit, to the night before when I grabbed drinks with an old friend from American Conservatory Theatre's Young Conservatory. She lives in San Francisco now, and suggested Fly Bar on Divisadero at Fulton. It was my first bar experience in San Francisco and I wish I hadn't been so sleepy (5am wakeup calls for crew practice will do that to you once 9pm rolls around...lame, yes. I am old. Get over it.). I got a Mangorita (note: they only serve beer, wine, sake, and soju...which I'd never had before and is amazing). The soju in my Mangorita was smooth and didn't burn like tequila would have. No pictures, cause that was not on the forefront of my brain at the time. That's a work in progress.

762 Divisadero St. @ Fulton
San Francisco, CA 94117

Last feast of the weekend occurred at Jardiniere in San Francisco (note: I spent 3 of my 4 days at home in San Francisco...so much for relaxing at home!). The familia went out for dinner on Saturday to this adorable, Art Deco restaurant just around the corner from Symphony Hall, the Opera House, etc. As soon as we walked in, I turned to my mom and said, "I feel like I'm in the lobby of a Disney Cruise Ship," because it felt like we were in Ariel's domain. Ha. We opted to go just as the performance crowd was headed to their respective entertainment for the evening which, if you're not seeing anything, is the way to go.

Dinner started off with an escarole salad with persimmon, pear, currants, and hazelnuts. We all then split fussily with wild boar and kale (THIS WAS THE STAR OF THE EVENING...as in, we should have ordered 4 instead of 1). I would go back just for this dish. For my main course, I got braised veal shank with polenta and autumn vegetables. It was good--I wish my veal hadn't had so much fat on it, but I wasn't insanely hungry at that point so it didn't matter to me. Dessert included a cheese tray, chocolate panna cotta, and pumpkin cake to share between the 4 of us. Now, I'm not much for panna cotta but this chocolate panna cotta was to die for. Between that and the fussily, I was a happy camper. But the meal did not end there. They brought us miniature macaroons (the French kind, not the coconut kind which are far less impressive): chocolate, amaretto, and...oh...I'm forgetting the third...probably a berry or pistachio. But all glorious in their own way. This is a pricier, special occasion restaurant, but worth a trek into the city.

300 Grove St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

That is all for now. I am careening towards finals week so nothing fancy for a while, but stay tuned for recommendations for Whistler, Canada over winter break!