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Showing posts from 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…

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!

12 Wines for December

As originally seen in the December 2015 issue of Galveston Monthly

The Thanksgiving Guide to Pairing Alsace Wines

A helpful guide from our friends at Wines of Alsace to help you plan your Thanksgiving feast!

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'oeuvrefor "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 sm…

Rodney Strong Vineyards

As originally seen in the November issue  of Galveston Monthly magazine 

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 Charitydinner 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 …

Texas Wine Harvest 2015

As originally seen in the September 2015 edition of Galveston Monthly Magazine

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 B…

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!

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

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 …

Hotel Yountville

Hotel Yountvilleis 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.

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 littl…

Schramsberg Dinner at the Meritage Resort

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.…

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 p…

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, themenu showcases local ingredients prepared with Mediterranean flair by Chef Robert Curry. It 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-c…

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?

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?

A Royal Announcement

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky recently announced the expansion of its portfolio with two new offerings, the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Ryeand 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 Hou…

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 app…

Fate + Family = Wine

From the August 2015 issue of Galveston Monthly magazine

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!

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.

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?

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?