Friday, December 18, 2015

Izakaya Unveils their New Cocktail Menu

Izakaya is a Japanese pub located at 318 Gray St in the Fourth Ward of Midtown Houston. The newest of the Azuma Group’s restaurants, this latest offering features a more globally influenced style of cuisine by Chefs Jean-Philippe Gaston and Manubu Horiuchi. The innovative fare lends itself to tapas style sharing. Even with the impressive men behind the menu, the drinks are just as important as the food at this establishment.

At a recent media event, I tasted some of the new features on the cocktail menu along with some of the signature dishes. The mixed drinks were all interesting putting an Asian spin on some cocktail classics. These new beverage additions were both refreshing and deliciously complementary with the food. The new line-up includes the Kitsune Highball, a mix of whiskey, Meyer lemon cordial, white pepper and soda. The name kitsune translates to fox which is often depicted as a magical being in Japanese folklore. My husband particularly enjoyed the surprising spicy finish on this one. I was torn between their version of the gin and tonic called the Tiger's Cup, a refreshing blend of Old Tom Gin, Shishito, lemon, sea salt and tonic and the spa water lightness of the Sleeping
Lotus Cocktail, a smooth mix of sake, Cocchi Americano and Salers with a cucumber floating on top. They were also showcasing a hot cocktail called A Night in Hokkaido which is a concoction of  sesame-infused whiskey, hot sake, honey and clove. This twist on the classic Hot Toddy was an improvement on the drink to my tastes and a favorite of many coming in out of the cold that evening. The drinks are all priced from $10-11.

Some of the more inspired dishes of the evening included the Tofu Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, a crispy tofu skin stuffed with cheese, onion and crunchy shirasu and the house-made venison sausage and Texas antelope meatballs. We also enjoyed the Vuelve A La Vida, a mix of scallop, shrimp, octopus, red onions, garlic, avocado, yuzu hot sauce and sea salt and the Negma chicken skewers with green onions.

The casual yet hip Izakaya is a great addition to the multi-cultural cuisine of Midtown. Reservations are recommended as both the restaurant and the bar stayed full all evening.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grilling at Home Again!


After what seems like has been an eternity, we have finally replaced our old grill. With the holidays approaching, we decided to get a gift for the household. We are excited to be able to cook outside for our family and friends again. We are officially back to grilling and chilling at home! 

Beef, it's what's for dinner tonight!


May the season bring you such great joy and abundance as well!
Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Tasting with "Cheeses of Europe"

I attended a Cheeses of Europe tasting last week where I sampled some extraordinary French dairy products. These items are already available in Texas, you can find them at HEB/Central Market, Whole Foods and some are also available at Costco. As the holiday season approaches and my entertaining increases, I will be choosing to use many of the different varieties on my own cheese plates and in recipes.

The organization's chef created some special hors d'oeuvre for "the Texas palate" which meant adding some spice to the mix. The unusual combinations had a good balance of flavors and demonstrated that you are only limited by your own imagination and personal preferences.

The Prepared Bites:
  • St Agur Blue cheese, jalapeno jelly and chipolte peanuts on black pepper water crackers.
  • St Andre Brie on baguette or roasted garlic crackers with spicy barbecue sauce and smokehouse almonds.
  • Ile de France Camembert on melba toast or baguette with applebutter, sliced MacIntosh apples and smoked paprika. 
While the natural rinds of the cheese are edible only the softer rinds such as the surrounding on the brie really add anything to the nutritional value and flavor. The rinds on the harder cheeses will not hurt you but may contribute a bitter flavor.

Le Fromage:

  • Le Chatelain Double Cream Brie (also sold as Lepetit brand)- This cow's milk cheese is produced in the Lorraine region in eastern France. It is soft and creamy in consistency with a pliable white rind and a slightly earthy flavorPair with Champagne, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
  • Brie Triple Cream L'Indulgent (also sold as Brie Le Cremeux brand)- This cheese is made from the same cow's milk as above but it is made with a higher butterfat content creating an even creamier, buttery, melt in your mouth texture. Served here with apple slices, baguette and honey. Pair with Champagne or Chardonnay.
  • Le Bleu President- This creamy blue cheese is created from the milk of cow's that grazed the mineral rich soils of the central highlands of Auvergne. It is matured for a minimum of 8 weeks which gives it a
    slightly dusty white mold exterior in addition to the blue vein running through the interior. Creamy yet still easily crumbled for salads with a pronounced spicy flavor. 
    Pair with Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
  • Les 3 Comtois- This cow's milk Comte cheese is produced in the east near the Jura
    Mountains. It is aged at least 4 months and up to 18 months. It has a hard, brownish rind with a firm yet creamy interior and an intense nutty yet slightly sweet flavor like dried fruit. It melts easily so it also works well for macaroni and cheese or for grilled cheese sandwiches. Pair with a range of dry to sweet white wines including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Riesling or with a fruity red wine like Gamay. The rind is also good for simmering in stews to add an umami nuance.
  • Fromagerie Thuaire Raclette- This cow's milk cheese is from the French Alps. It is pressed and aged for 3 to 6 months creating a yellow-orange rind with a pale yellow interior and a smooth texture with a nutty flavor. This is also an easy melter and is often served warm and oozy on bread. Pair with Pinot Gris or Chardonnay or for dessert pair it with a sweet Muscat.
  • Saint Geric Triple Cream Blue- This rich and creamy cow's milk cheese from
    Fromager d'Affinois has a more delicate spicy note than the other more intensely flavored blue cheeses, it is a bit more brie-like with a finer blue vein. It is more approachable for those that are not blue cheese lovers as it is a less pungent blue cheese. Pair with Champagne or fruitier reds like Grenache or Gamay. Served here on baguette with honey.
  • Bonhomme de Normandie- By Isigny Ste Mere, this cow's milk cheese from Normandy now also comes in a petit size that is perfect for anytime use. It is rich and creamy with a mild earthiness in the rind. Pair with Champagne, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
  • Isigny Ste Mere Mimolette- This cow's milk cheese originates from a small area in
    northern France called Pas-de-Calais. The cheese is cooked and pressed to create a hard orange cheese that is shaped like a ball with a pitted crusty rind. The interior has a sharp, nutty flavor with butterscotch notes. This cheese has complex flavors that work with a variety of wine, pair it with un-oaked Chardonnay or with a bold red like Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • Saint Agur L'Intense- This cow's milk cheese is from  Auvergne in central France. It is molded and aged for 2 to 3 months creating a soft, creamy texture which is less crumbly than some other blue cheese, and it has a rich, slightly spicy taste. It is easily spread on bread or could be used to top burgers or steaks, as well. Pair with Chardonnay or Syrah and with Port for dessert.
  • Ile de France Camembert- This cow's milk cheese originates from Normandy. It is aged a minimum of 4 weeks creating a white mold dusted cheese with light brown stripes on the exterior with a creamy, brie-like butter-textured interior and concentrated earthy aromas and flavors. Pair with fruity reds like Merlot or Grenache or with sweet whites for dessert.
Le Beurre:
  • Isigny Ste Mere Beurre D'Isigny- Butter is produced in a small area in Normandy
    situated near the sea. The cows graze in these pastures on nutrient-dense grasses grown on alluvial soils and produce a rich milk from which a sweet, creamy butter is formed. Available in both unsalted for cooking and salted for table use.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Celebrity Chef Extravaganza at MARK’S American Cuisine

The Celebrity Chef Extravaganza took place this year at MARK’S American Cuisine in Houston on Sunday, September 27. Guests had donated $3,500 per couple during the annual Woodforest Charitable Foundation’s Connoisseurs for Charity dinner that was held last spring. This donation provided participants the opportunity to attend on this evening and enjoy fantastic food prepared by some of Houston’s most highly acclaimed chefs with a specially paired wine for each course. 

The evening started with a reception where guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres with a glass of bubbles while mingling with some of the chefs. Those present enjoyed knowing the funds raised were directly benefiting the Community Youth Outreach (CYO) program. This unique annual event provides attendees with the opportunity to interact with some of the city's top chefs in a festive atmosphere while raising money for a good cause. 

The Dinner Menu


Course 1 prepared by Chef Charles Clark of Ibiza
  • Chilled sorrel soup with smoked crab with 2011 Commanderie Peyrassol Rosé 
Course 2 prepared by Chef Bryan Caswell of Reef
  • Roasted Gulf snapper with carrot and artichoke barigoule with 2013 Groth Chardonnay
Course 3 prepared by Chef Arturo Osorio of Amerigo's Grill
  • Maple leaf duck breast with candied figs, huckleberries, mustard, crispy beets and port reduction with 2010 Villa Mt Eden Pinot Noir Sonoma
Course 4 prepared by Chef Kent Rathbun of Jasper's
  • Thyme crusted beef tenderloin, Chianti-herb glaze with lemon, olive oil polenta with sun-dried tomato cream with 2012 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone
Course 5 prepared by Chef Mark Cox of MARK'S 
  • Rum-infused mascarpone cream, lady fingers, chocolate sable dust, Kahlua emulsion, candied citrus with Pedro Ximenez 1983 Sherry
It was a fantastic evening combining wine and top quality cuisine with philanthropic opportunity and the glitz of some of greater Houston's celebrity chefs. The total donation of $415,000 was presented to CYO by the Executive Director of the foundation, Kim Marling, at this event.




  

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Chef's Picks with Pairings at Rich Table in San Francisco




After five days in wine country, my husband and I headed to San Francisco for our final night in the Golden State. We were wanting the high quality, innovative cuisine for which the city is famous but after a lengthy drive we were also wanting a more casual atmosphere; Rich Table was the perfect choice. This small, noisy restaurant is located on Gough Street. Its open kitchen and close quarters encourages informality and guests may feel comfortable striking up conversations with those seated nearby.

We were seated at the communal table right next to where Chef Evan Rich was overseeing the kitchen. We opted for the Chef's Pick menu with the added beverage pairings, our own creative thinking was flagging from a bit of travel exhaustion. We feel we made a great choice, check out the pictures in the video clip.

As soon as we relinquished control over our dinner, the food and wine began to flow. We were immediately poured a glass of 2014 Broc Cellars Sparkling Cabernet Franc from Santa Barbara. This refreshing, slightly savory wine paired perfectly with the array of small bites to arrive first to the table. Standouts in the first onslaught of tastes were the raw oysters with watermelon mignonette, the sardine chip with horseradish and herbs, the spicy chicken liver mousse with nuts and the fried porcini doughnuts.

For the next course, we were each served a different wine and food pairing. I was poured a lovely 2014 Smith Story Pinot Noir Rosé from Rheingau Germany alongside a nectarine, golden beet and burrata salad while my husband received a glass of 2013 Stekar Malvasia with his heirloom tomato caesar salad topped with bacon and garlic croutons. We, of course, immediately shared tastes and both were delicious.

The different pairings for us continued with a glass of Sorelle Bronca Particella 68 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene for me, a creamy mineral-laced pear and citrus flavored sparkler paired with chanterelles, blistered grapes, popcorn and chives in a citrus, herb oil while my husband enjoyed king salmon with roe and roasted potatoes with a glass of 2013 Benoit Bourgogne Aligoté.

This course was followed by a glass of Apex Predator Farmhouse Ale from Off Color Brewing with an Asian-inspired ramen dish for me and 2010 Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica with tagliatelle, peppers and okra for him. 

Next up, a pour of 2013 Marc Brédif Chinon with a grilled ribeye square on hummus for each of us. The small, geometric cut of beef was the perfect size after the multiple courses we had already so eagerly consumed. A spoonful of farmers cheese with fruit arrived for each of us next, a palate preparer for our final course.

Our meal diverged again when they brought our dessert. I was given a glass of 2014 De Forville Moscato d'Asti with an unusual mix of dried cherry and apricot, basil granita and brown butter ice cream while my husband was handed a stout beer with a chocolate concoction of brittle, meringue and mousse. Both unique and worthy of sharing. A final sweet bite topped with fresh raspberry and chocolate concluded our tasting

Chef Evan Rich came by the table at our meal's end to check on how we had enjoyed his picks, we truthfully told him that we had delighted in it all. If you are in San Francisco, I would highly recommend this restaurant, it is the perfect place to enjoy innovative, high quality, thoughtfully prepared cuisine in a casual setting. Make reservations or you may be waiting for a table.

Friday, September 25, 2015

h2hotel and Spoonbar


In historic Healdsburg, the h2hotel was my choice for lodging during my recent trip to Sonoma County wine country. I loved the eco-friendliness of this boutique hotel along with its clean, modern interior design. In addition to the excellent location and the cool decor, the service was top notch. I was assisted with restaurant reservations, spa appointments and accommodated with an early check-in time.

I enjoyed both dinner and breakfast at the Spoonbar restaurant located in the hotel lobby, the food was interesting and delicious. It is a top nighttime destination in town, the bar is happening and all the tables are full, so, reservations are recommended. A fantastic breakfast buffet which includes hot dishes cooked to order is free for hotel guests every morning.

h2hotel- A highly recommended hotel; good food, hip ambience, clean, comfortable rooms and a great location!
Spoonbar- A highly recommended restaurant and bar; innovative local cuisine with a good wine list and a cool vibe!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Napa Valley Harvest Trip 2015

After dropping our daughter off at grad school in California, my husband and I headed north to Napa Valley. As a wine writer from Houston, Texas, it seemed illogical for me to leave America's biggest wine producing state without first taking the opportunity to taste the new releases, get some information gathering done and see how the 2015 harvest was progressing up in California's premier wine region.

While I've been writing about our adventures in Napa Valley dining here, I have been putting my thoughts on the individual wineries at www.Wine-Thoughts.com.

We only had two and a half days to tour in Napa and a quick 24 hours in Sonoma County before heading back to San Francisco and home.

Follow along at Napa Harvest Trip 2015 or for the individual stories, click on the links below: 
Beaulieu VineyardsOpus OneMumm NapaZD WinesCorison WineryFranciscan, Matthiasson, Chateau Montelena and Sterling Vineyards

In Sonoma County, we toured and tasted at Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and at Rodney Strong Vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

All are recommended destinations for winery tours and tastings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hotel Yountville

Hotel Yountville is a highly recommended hotel in Napa Valley, in addition to its convenient central location, it features large, beautifully furnished rooms with private patios. There are numerous comfortable outdoor lounge areas for the guests to share as well. 

I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at the restaurant, a nice massage at their spa, and a few glasses of the local sparkling at the well stocked bar in the lobby. The pool area looked inviting though it was too chilly during my stay to consider. I also found the on-site staff to be friendly and helpful with my Napa questions throughout my stay. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Old Faithful Geyser of California

This was a perfect spot for us to picnic in Calistoga. While touring wine country, we ate amazing meals out every night but we ate very casually by day. This park had covered picnic areas like pool cabanas set up around the geyser. We were able to relax in the shade in lawn chairs and eat our lunch while waiting for Old Faithful Geyser of California to blow again. 

We had purchased fried chicken sandwiches, potato salad, a gingersnap and two big bottles of water at Oakville Grocery before heading up north. We ate breakfast there, as well, while we waited on our lunch order. You can always count on them for good quality, fast, casual food. We generally like to splurge on dinner on vacations and be more frugal with our breakfast and lunch choices.

We were rehydrating from all the spitting and we were heading towards Healdsburg next, so, we didn't indulge, but beer and wine are allowed in the park as well. The park is set up to accommodate families; amenities include bathrooms, a little museum, bocce ball and goats to pet. It is a quick spot to stop for wine travelers if you don't mind the casual family scene and if you have an interest in the geology of the area.

It is small and simple but the museum gives a mini overview of the area's geology, important in explaining the geyser but also important if you are interested in the terroir of the region. The covered areas are also excellent for wine travelers looking to enjoy a casual picnic while watching nature's show before moving on to the next tasting. Park admission- $12 per person.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Schramsberg Dinner at the Meritage Resort

Hugh Davies and Sandra Crittenden
After spontaneously booking our trip to Napa Valley during Harvest and then seeing the difficulty in getting hotel rooms, I started making dinner reservations as quickly as I could. I also started checking for events. I had been disappointed that I couldn't fit a trip to Schramsberg into our tasting schedule so I was excited to see this paired Schramsberg dinner with winemaker, Hugh Davies at the Meritage Resort. I immediately booked a place at the table.

We arrived promptly at 6:30 to enjoy our first glass of Blanc de Blancs and passed hors d'oeuvre out overlooking the vineyard. We met a nice couple from Chicago before moving down into the Estate Cave for dinner. Mystical mood lighting set the stage for the next glass of sparkling. It created a beautiful ambience but it was not the best lighting for food pictures. I ended up sitting directly across from second generation winemaker, Hugh Davies. 

I was impressed with the quality of food and the service for such a large group. The dinner was much more crowded than I had expected so I felt fortunate to have the seat that I did. Hugh was very excited to introduce the new Davies red wine releases and share the stories of each wine's vintage. It was interesting to learn more about his family and the winery's history as well.  I am looking forward to touring and tasting at Schramsberg on my next trip to Napa Valley. 

The Dinner:
  • 2011 Blanc de Noirs with American Cavier with creme fraiche, English cucumbers, quail egg, crostini 
  • 2013 Davies Pinot Noir "Ferrington Vineyard" with Split Pea and Ham soup with parsley, mint and sea urchin gold
  • 2012 Brut Rose in Valencia Orange & liquid nitrogen Mimosa
  • 2012 Davies Cabernet Sauvignon with roast quail, 40 hour pork belly, apricot, watermelon and arugula
  • 2006 J. Schram with Fromage blanc creme brulee with caramelized honey gelato, granola and warm fresh fruit
This event was $125.00 per person for dinner plus wine pairings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dinner at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville

After a phenomenal first day of wine tasting in the Napa Valley, along with an array of some excellent local cheese in the late afternoon, we found ourselves in the unfortunate position of not being as hungry as we would have liked when it was time to "get our Bouchon on." 

It was an early reservation and, in spite of the plush surroundings, the restaurant had a bit of a happy hour feel. We decided on the "build your own" cold seafood platter and some of the area's famous sparkling wine to get our evening started. A local couple at the next table struck up a conversation as soon as our order arrived. We had a great time discussing the Napa restaurant scene with them while enjoying our dinner.


Bouchon: Highly recommended- beautiful dining room, excellent service, fresh seafood, a great wine list and friendly locals!

Side Note: We, of course, also enjoyed Thomas Keller's famous boxed fried chicken at Addendum for lunch one day and Bouchon Bakery for coffee and pastries on another (check out this Tastemade at Bouchon Bakery from a previous trip). Both are must-dos when in the Napa Valley.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dinner at Auberge du Soleil

On a recent trip to Napa Valley, my husband and I decided to check out the Michelin-starred restaurant, Auberge du Soleil. In addition to the amazing views that summertime dining on the terrace provides, the menu showcases local ingredients prepared with Mediterranean flair by Chef Robert CurryIt was our first night in town and we had big plans for touring and tasting on the following day. We arrived for an early alfresco dinner at 6:15pm on the covered terrace overlooking the lush resort grounds with the expectation that our multi-course meal would keep us there until sunset.

The dinner options at Auberge feature a choice of either a three course meal for $110 or four courses for $130. You can also add an extra gourmet touch to your dinner with extravagant add-ons like caviar with all the traditional garnishes, fresh truffles to top your entrees or an extra course of cheese for an extra fee. There is a Chef's selection menu with optional wine pairings as well. I ordered the self-chosen three courses and my husband ordered four with the understanding that we would be sharing the dessert. We decided to choose our own wine by the glass instead of getting a bottle.

Before our meal arrived, we were treated to an amuse bouche of the chef's choice, a small shot of garden fresh goodness. Based on our orders and on the occasion, a glass of California bubbles seemed in order, Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs North Coast 2011 sparkling wine was my husband's immediate choice and I agreed. The extensive by-the-glass wine list, overseen by wine director Kris Margerum, features over 40 wines, so, finding an individualized perfect pairing for each course is possible for just about everyone.

For my dinner, I chose the white corn soup with Maine rock crab garnished with chervil oil, it was a decadent bowl of creamy, summer sweetness. My next course was the heirloom tomato risotto with wild gulf shrimp and a bacon yuzu emulsion, also creamy and rich with perfectly cooked shrimp. I enjoyed a different glass of California bubbles with my second course, the Roederer Estate Brut Rosé from Anderson Valley, a non-vintage sparkling blend, my husband did the same. My final official course was the local Liberty Farm duck with apricots served next to an endive salad with Marcona almonds and chamomile. I ordered a glass of the recommended 2011 Siduri "Rosella's" Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot NoirI ate all the salad and shared half of my duck with my husband who ranked it one of the most well-prepared that he had ever had, I also made sure to sample his main course. The portions were generous so it was easy to be, as well. 

My husband opted for the poached Maine lobster with watermelon and cherry tomato with yuzukosho and red mustard for his second course. I was jealous of his choice as soon as it arrived, fortunately, he shared a bite. It was as fresh, light and tasty as the photo in the slideshow below suggests. Next, he enjoyed the sautéed northern halibut with garden beans in a bacon and basil broth. He cleaned the plate in record time and I did not get a taste. For his main course, he selected the bacon wrapped veal served with fried chanterelles and caramelized shallots with a white corn cream sauce. I shared several bites of his veal, it was nicely caramelized on the outside yet tender and prepared to order. He decided to go to Burgundy for his wine for this course and ordered a glass of the 2010 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Bourgogne Rouge. 

Before our shared dessert course arrived, we were each surprised with a simple spoonful of berry goodness, a nice choice by the chef as it differed from our own order of coconut cream with salted almonds, chocolate sorbet and almond praline; the flavor of this dish was reminiscent of an Almond Joy candy bar. I had an espresso while he enjoyed cappuccino.

By the time we were prepared to leave, the sun had set. The panoramic vineyard view was lost under the soft hazy light of the half moon. After a long day of travel, the Auberge had been the perfect place to sit back, relax and be perfectly served while taking in a beautiful view while simply enjoying the fact that we were there. I would highly recommend this restaurant for a romantic evening out in Napa Valley, Excellent service, innovative top quality cuisine in a peaceful atmosphere with expansive views. It is the perfect setting to begin or end any trip in California's premium wine country.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Étoile Cuisine et Bar


The asparagus soup at Étoile Cuisine et Bar was summery fresh goodness. It, along with some pommes fritte and Sancerre that I shared with my lunch companion, made for the perfect light plant-based meal.

I have eaten lunch here several times but I've not been in for dinner, I need to remedy that soon.  Have you enjoyed the dinner menu at Étoile Cuisine et Bar?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Crab Cakes and Chablis

Though I'm very fortunate to get to go out wining and dining all over Houston, we do occasionally stay in. However, even when I'm cooking for a quiet, weeknight meal at home, we tend to be treating ourselves.

Homemade crab cakes (always more lump crab than cake) served with Premier Cru Chablis from the Fourchaume vineyard in northern Burgundy were the favorite food and wine pairing at home this week. The Chardonnay wines from this region typically have bright lemon aromas and flavors with crushed seashell mineral notes that always work perfectly with this dish.

What's on your table this evening?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Royal Announcement

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky recently announced the expansion of its portfolio with two new offerings, the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye and the Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel which they showcased in Houston on Tuesday this week at an exclusive tasting event at The Honeymoon Café & Bar on Main St. 

Acclaimed Master of Whisky and fellow Houstonian, Mayra Isais, led a guided whisky tasting to the delight of attendees. Crown Royal Canadian whisky has a smooth, elegant style that Mayra says is a reflection of its aristocratic origins.  

Seagrams created this brand in 1939 to pay homage to the king and queen who were visiting Canada for a grand tour. It was only available north of the border until 1964. Since then, it has become familiar to a much larger audience. Crown Royal Canadian whisky is now the number one selling Canadian whisky brand in the US. 

Guests were also treated to a selection of delicious Northern Harvest Rye cocktails that could keep anyone cool through the rest of Houston's hot summer. 

When you are ready for your next cocktail, check out both Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, the brand’s first-ever blended rye whisky or a straight up pour of Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel which pays tribute to the brand’s signature smoothness. 

Find cocktail recipes online at www.crownroyal.com/whisky-cocktails

Thursday, August 6, 2015

An Afternoon in Galveston


As a Houston native, I can say that going to Galveston has been a part of every summer of my life for as long as I can remember and, as some family pictures would indicate, I've been going since before I can remember. Like New Yorkers escape to The Hamptons, many Houstonians escape to the little island paradise to the south. There is no better time to escape the city heat than in August.



My daughter and I woke up with the spontaneous urge to take in some sea air so we headed south on I-45 to spend the day in our local oasis. In less than an hour we were in Galveston's historic Strand District ordering an early seafood lunch before we headed to the beach.

We opted for the Black Pearl Oyster Bar and Grill to get our fix of the local fare and then headed to the touristy Stewart Beach. After a couple of hours of sun and surf, we were back in the car and home by dinner.

I have traveled to some of the world's most amazing beaches and while these destinations offer their own appeal, I consider Galveston Island to be one  of the great perks of living in Houston. Great food, pretty views and easy access from the city.

Take the afternoon off, you should go enjoy it yourself!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ladies Lunch at Ibiza

I'm not sure how I have missed out on trying Ibiza for so long now but a recent ladies lunch has remedied that situation.

With a bottle of Spanish Rioja rosado, we tried out some of the new summer menu items along with some classic favorites.

Starting at the top right, the southern style Spanish gazpacho was cool and refreshing. On the middle row, the creamy Burrata salad was delicious as was the ceviche with avocado. The la plancha style Portuguese octopus with green zhug and Spanish chorizo was both savory and filling. We finished with the watermelon salad with feta cheese, red onion, parsley and black olive; a classic Mediterranean flavor combo that paired nicely with the wine.

This was my first trip to Ibiza but it won't be the last. Our service was excellent, the food was delicious and the prices were reasonable; Ibiza is a recommended Houston lunch destination!








Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lunch at Sandy McGee's

When I find myself in Richmond, Texas, I look forward to eating at Sandy McGee's. I particularly like to enjoy lunch at this restaurant located in the historic district; it has made my jury duty so much more bearable on so many occasions.

My favorite lunch to order is the City Secretary combo which includes your choice of a half sandwich, small salad and a cup of soup.

I almost always get the chicken salad sandwich, the broccoli cheese soup and the fruit salad, it's homestyle fresh and so good!


My husband and I do come here occasionally for a casual dinner as well. We like to take advantage of their BYOB policy and bring along a bottle of wine. This is a recommended Richmond restaurant.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Eggplant Rollatine alla Sandra


Eggplant Rollatine is a vegetarian family favorite here so it has been a Meatless Monday go-to at my house for years, I switch up the cheese inside to keep it interesting!

What are you cooking tonight?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Paella in a Pan

I decided to try a new paella recipe today. As usual, I did not actually follow the instructions but kept tweaking it as I went. I must say, it turned out really good, I got rave reviews from everyone.

I knew it needed more saffron.

Do you have a tried and true recipe for this dish or do you make it up as you go?