Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Sparkling Season

As originally seen in the December issue of 
Galveston Monthly magazine*

*Incorrect photo for the Prosecco

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sunday Brunch at Caracol

Caracol has one of the best Sunday brunches in Houston. The Mexican coastal cuisine buffet assortment includes raw oysters on the half shell and in shooters, an array of ceviche, salads, tamales, enchiladas, savory meats and sides along with a dessert table with more options than you can try in one visit.

I could make a whole meal with just their raw offerings. My husband prefers the rich meat dishes with multiple desserts. The Mexican hot chocolate found amidst the dessert array is the perfect finish no matter which direction you choose. They also have a brunch cocktail menu and a good list of sparkling wines to keep you refreshed throughout your meal.

Expect a busy, festive atmosphere and prepare to enjoy! This is one of my favorite Sunday brunches in Houston.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Saturday Brunch at Gloria's

Following Thanksgiving, my side of the family all went for Saturday brunch at Gloria's in Midtown. Gloria's features Latin cuisine focusing on Salvadoran and Tex-Mex favorites. My brother is their architect and has designed most of their restaurants; we always share a meal here whenever he is in town.

This was my first time to order from the brunch menu which is available on both Saturday and Sunday. I had the Huevos a Caballo, two eggs over easy on a skirt steak with black beans and guacamole salad. 

Simple and delicious with a Bloody Mary, recommended!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Brandani's in Missouri City

Brandani's Restaurant and Wine Bar in Missouri City opened over a year and a half ago but I just recently discovered it. I live in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston, and it is easier for me to go into town rather than head deeper into the suburbs on most evenings.

My husband and I have now eaten at this location four times in a short time period, most recently last night. Chef Ron Brandani and his wife Claire have created one of the best dining experiences in the area. Though the appearance of the restaurant has not been updated since the prior tenant, the American classics and Italian-inspired menu is a change.

The dishes we have tried have all been fresh and flavorful. We have thoroughly enjoyed everything we have tasted. A few favorites include the crabmeat stuffed zucchini blossom appetizer special when it is available and the Shrimp Marco when it is not. All of the pasta is delicious and freshly-made; we have tried all four options now and have not been disappointed. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes is already a southern favorite of mine, the added bonus of their jalapeño cream gravy served with it, makes it an irresistible choice. We have also enjoyed the filet mignon and some fish specials.

If the delicious food wasn't enough to bring us back, the wine list which is overseen by Claire Brandani encourages us as well. The stereotypical suburban restaurant list of big box names doesn't exist here. True to the wine bar concept, the list evolves and there are fun offerings to be found at reasonable prices. We've enjoyed bottles of Premier Cru Chablis, Rosso di Montalcino and Falanghina along with some good by-the-glass options as well.

I'm sorry that I was late to this party, if you haven't tried it yet, I am recommending that you do. Brandani's Restaurant and Wine Bar is something to seek out on the southwest side of town.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Broiled Lobster Tails at Home

I saw these newly arrived lobster tails on sale at Whole Foods and I had to bring them home. The store prepped them for me so all I had to do was put them under the broiler and melt some butter.

Voila, dinner is served.

I served them with a bottle of Contadi Castaldi Rosé Franciacorta which is made from Pinot Noir which is known as Pinot Nero in Lombardy, a small wine-producing area in northern Italy from which this wine comes. The region is famous for its high-quality sparkling wines made in the same way as Champagne. The bottle of sparkling rosé was already in my house and was delicious with the meal. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Brunch at Triniti

We tried the brunch at Triniti last weekend for the first time. We enjoyed it and we will return. It will be a great spot to bring the whole family over the holidays.

My meal looked like this picture but also included some healthy greens that were not particularly photogenic though they were delicious. 

My entree was the fried chicken with over-easy eggs and we shared a mixed pastry basket and a bottle of Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta sparkling wine. 

Southern goodness with Italian refreshment, a recommended way to Sunday brunch in Houston.

*Edit - This restaurant unfortunately closed on Sunday, February 5, 2017.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Brunch at Brennan's

Brennan's is a Houston institution. This New Orleans inspired restaurant has been the scene of many
of my family's special occasions over the years. My grandmother and my aunt even hosted my high school graduation brunch here when I was eighteen.

My husband and I had not been to their brunch in a few years though we have had dinner here many times during that period. We decided it was time to check them out again last weekend and I decided to indulge in the "Digging Texas Creole" option for $32.

This pre-set menu was new to me and involved three courses that included fairytale pumpkin and carrot soup, cast-iron roasted vegetable enchiladas with a fried egg on top and ended with Meyer lemon and rosemary sorbet. Absolutely delicious and loaded with veggies, a scrumptiously healthy brunch option.

We shared a bottle of brunch bubbles, a Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2013. This is one of our favorites and is always perfect with
brunch, you can count on it to be crisp and delicious!

More Schramsberg love in this blog at Schramsberg Dinner at the Meritage Resort in Napa Valley.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pappas Bros Steakhouse

My husband and I go to the original Pappas Bros Steakhouse on Westheimer pretty regularly. We like to attend their wine events and then get dinner afterwards.

Last night, we just went in for a light meal.
By this, I mean, we split a side potato with our full steak entrees.

On the wine list at Pappas Bros Steakhouse- the Faury Saint Joseph 2013. This Rhone Valley Syrah is a great red wine to indulge in now with any of the meat entrees on the menu. This was our second bottle at this location, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Brunch at The Union Kitchen - Memorial

My husband and I decided to try brunch at the Memorial location of Paul Miller's The Union Kitchen this morning. We arrived shortly after service began at 10:00 and were immediately seated. We ordered a bottle of the easy to find and consistently delicious Roederer Estate sparkling rosé to get our Sunday brunch started and began to peruse the menu. The bubbles were dry, smooth and fruity as expected!

We were out a bit earlier than usual so I was leaning more towards the breakfast side of brunch. I was also fairly hungry so I ordered the Ranchero omelet which came with diced char-grilled hangar steak, salsa fresca and pico de gallo along with a side of breakfast potatoes.

Our server also delivered a plate of mini-muffins with our entrees. It was actually hard to choose as several items had sounded really good, luckily, I was not disappointed with my choice. The steak was tender and the eggs were fluffy and, most importantly, not brown and it came with a generous but not overwhelming serving of potatoes. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

My husband opted for the Union bowl which came with scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, chopped bacon, green onions, bell peppers, shredded cheddar cheese and breakfast potatoes; he said he also enjoyed his selection.

He then suggested that we split the Bananas Foster French Toast for dessert as it had been difficult to choose between the sweet and savory items. This dish was composed of pan-seared custard marinated brioche bread with warm bananas foster sauce and a drizzle of maple syrup. Decadent and delicious!

A steady crowd had began to arrive and the dining room was filling up. Our first trip to The Union Kitchen was an unquestionable success, we will definitely be back. We looked over the dinner menu and decided we will try that for our next experience with this restaurant.

I can say with certainty, however, that the brunch at The Union Kitchen is recommended!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Date Night at Brasserie 19

My husband and I had each had a large lunch on this day so we decided to go to Brasserie 19 for our Friday night out for some Champagne and a little spread of cold seafood. While this restaurant has a fantastic menu with classic brasserie-style French food, we come here often just for the Le Petit Plateau de Fruits de Mer.

Brasserie 19 serves up some of the highest quality chilled seafood that you will find in Houston. You can always count on it arriving to your table fresh, perfectly prepared and enticing-looking. On this evening our array consisted of a dozen cold water oysters on the half shell, jumbo boiled shrimp, crab claws, tuna tartare and a half a lobster.

We also ordered a bottle of the NV Vueve Clicquot Brut Rosé Champagne to enjoy with our meal. It was listed at approximately its suggested retail price. The wine list at Brasserie 19 is well-known not just for its pairing ability with the menu but also for serving it up at prices that make any knowledgable winelover feel comfortable about when ordering.

Since it was the weekend, we ended our meal with espresso and the spiced pear cobbler topped with vanilla bean gelato and caramel, consistently yummy. We also splurged on a glass of Chateau Sisqueille Rivesaltes 1930 Vin Doux Naturel dessert wine which was new to the menu and decadently delicious.

Brasserie 19 is one of my top Houston restaurants.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Alfresco Evening at Aura Brasserie

Last night, my husband and I enjoyed an early dinner on the patio at Aura Brasserie in Sugar Land. We split the jumbo lump gulf crab beignets, the mac & cheese and the Wagyu carpaccio, all from the appetizer menu, served up with Willamette Pinot Noir by the glass. These three items were perfect for splitting and quite tasty, as well.

Aura Brasserie is run by chef/owner Frédéric Perrier from Lyon, France. He refers to his cooking style as "innovative American with an inch of French". 

Check out the delicious offerings at Aura Brasserie the next time you are in Sugar Land, it is a highly recommended restaurant and, unquestionably, one of area's best.

Edit: This restaurant has closed as the chef has moved onto other projects. Check out his fast and casual homestyle restaurant, also located in Sugar Land, Live Oak Grill.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Book Review- A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery

Pour yourself a glass of some of Napa’s finest, then settle in to take a vicarious ride with one of the valley’s most perfect scoring couples. You will feel like you’ve joined them at their table as Kathryn and Craig Hall take turns telling their tale starting in Texas before they met on through the building of their California wine country empire. 

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery is a story anyone can savor, it is one of two hard-working, determined people who come together first in love and, then together, dream a dream big enough for wine lovers everywhere to share with them. 

Available today on Amazon or at Hall Wines.

Media Sample for review purposes.
Also posted at Wine Thoughts.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Re-post, in memory of "The Lady of the House - Margrit Mondavi"

As originally seen at

One of the highlights of this trip to Napa Valley was the opportunity to meet Mrs. Robert Mondavi, the Vice President of Cultural Affairs at the winery that bears her husband's name. I was introduced to her at the dedication of their newest art addition. The piece was placed in front of the main entrance to honor the mind that had originally imagined and then overseen all that each visitor views upon their approach.

Margrit Biever Mondavi was instrumental in the selection of this bust of Robert Mondavi, a fittingly larger-than-life rendition of the head of the man whose mind had long ago envisioned the Napa that we see today. She discussed with me the initial difficulty in choosing the right piece of art to honor her husband as the founder of the winery.

She had originally considered a life-sized depiction of him standing with a glass of wine in his hand welcoming all who came, a memory that all who knew him would have certainly cherished. She ultimately decided that his vision, his ideas, were the greater statement on who Robert Mondavi was so she commissioned the bust to be created by artist Len Urso.

Keeping the spirit of Robert Mondavi alive and well is Margrit Biever Mondavi's greatest passion. He is still seemingly overseeing much at the winery today. His hospitality is displayed when servers bring out Moscato d'Oro slushies with dessert and quickly explain that this is purposefully done, this is how Mr. Mondavi preferred it. This well-placed faith in his decision making continues throughout. You hear it from the head winemaker as well when she discusses both grape growing and wine making decisions originally made by Mr. Mondavi that are still followed today to always ensure his preferred style.

Many that were in attendance at the dedication remembered the man that they called Bob. He was seen as a friend and neighbor throughout the region. His ideas about Napa Valley and the wines that would come to be made here were visionary. Margrit Mondavi's choice to have this thought-full man's visage oversee the comings and goings of the guests arriving to the winery while at the same ensuring their view is of the man who had the idea is a truly fitting tribute.

Together the couple supported the arts in the community at every level and you can see their devotion on display throughout the buildings and across the beautiful grounds. Margrit Mondavi created the concert programs that benefitted the Napa Valley Symphony and Opera. She brought chefs in from France and from across America to showcase the magic of food and wine pairing. The couple wanted to give their winery guests an opportunity to build a greater appreciation of both the wine and the culinary arts.

Many of the Food and Wine Experiences that are available today were born of her endeavors. Her sketches adorn the tops of the menus for these events. She continues her support of the arts across Napa Valley while continuing to oversee that the vision of both her husband and herself remains realized. The lady of the house was definitely in and she was a pleasure to meet.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fruit Bowl Breakfast

In anticipation of the holiday weekend and a lot of indulgent eating ahead, I thought I should start off Friday with something healthy. One small banana with a handful of huge organic blueberries and some sliced organic strawberries was my choice this morning.

I also had home-brewed organic French roast coffee with just a drizzle of organic heavy whipping cream for my small luxurious splurge.

Organic was the theme this morning aside from the bananas which were the only conventionally grown produce in the bowl.

What's your favorite food with which to start the day?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lunch at Café on the Green in the Omni Houston

I ate lunch at the Omni Houston Hotel's Café on the Green recently where I had the opportunity to taste Food and Beverage Director, Eric Parker's top wine pick for the Fall along with some of the favorite items from the menu.

Just featured in the Houston Chronicle, Eric Parker had chosen the 2014 Etude Lyric Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County as the wine to enjoy this season citing its versatility and food friendliness as the reason. I enjoyed it with the ahi tuna crudo, the fish tacos and the brisket quesadilla roll. This easy-drinking wine didn't just stand up to these flavorful dishes, it truly enhanced them.

Parker has made a highly recommended choice, try the 2014 Etude Lyric Pinot Noir by the splash, glass or bottle on your next visit to the Houston Omni.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Summer of Houston Dining in Pictures on Facebook

Let's Connect!
Click here to link to my Facebook page. Follow me and see where I'm eating in Houston this summer and beyond, it's going to be good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Samson by Brian Goggin

The first time I went to get my luggage in Sacramento, my eye was caught by this artwork. This piece is named Samson. It was created by Brian Goggin and is located in the Terminal A Baggage Claim at SMF.

There are actually two different versions of these 23' pillars which were constructed from luggage dating from before the idea of airplane flight was a reality up into our modern times. The pillars are supporting the ceiling structurally as well as providing interest to a usually bland area. I love everything about this practical and whimsical art piece! 

I also like the title 'Samson'. I think it is so clever evoking both the biblical story and the luggage brand Samsonite. 

The more cerebral artistic interpretation is that the luggage represents all of the travelers who have passed through who have actually supported the airport. 

Very eye-catching, very fun!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ciao Bello - A Marche Wine Dinner

I try to attend the wine dinners at Ciao Bello as much as possible. I do this for the authentic Italian cuisine, the surprising array of wines, the excellent service and the always festive atmosphere. My husband and I attended the Marche wine dinner last night and it was no exception. The menu featured items from the Marche region of Italy that are not seen regularly at the restaurant which makes each experience at these dinners fresh and unique.

As expected, there was a full house of enthusiastic guests so it is best to book your spot for these events early. Check the restaurant's website for more information on upcoming dinners.

The wine dinners at Ciao Bello are always highly recommended.

Edit -This restaurant closed in the summer of 2018. Check out the higher end sister restaurant, Tony's, a staple of the city's fine dining scene.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Brunch at Peska

Though it has been open for less than two years, Peska quickly became one of my favorite restaurants in Houston. I have celebrated my birthday there, eaten many dinners, enjoyed a couple of Happy Hours and a few ladies lunches. Last weekend was my first time to try their Sunday Brunch.

My husband and I arrived shortly after the 11:00 opening time. We were immediately seated and given the lowdown on how this brunch operates. For $46 per person, guests have the opportunity to order some items directly from the kitchen and also visit a raw bar station inside by the bar and a grill station out on the patio. Drink specials include bottomless Mimosas or Sangria for $6, Bloody Mary's and Mojitos for $7 a piece and discounts off bottles of wine.

We decided to start with a bottle of pink Burgundy bubbles and ordered some fish empanadas from the kitchen to get started. We then decided not to sit and wait but to hit the raw bar station. The options seemed endless with a choice of fresh oysters on the half shell, large cold boiled shrimp, pre-cracked Jonah crab claws, sashimi and tiradita, three types of ceviche and four kinds of loaded tostadas. We arrived back to the table with our plates as our bottle arrived with the yummy little empanadas following shortly.

Next, I tried the Chupe de Camaron from the kitchen, it was a full and filling bowl of shrimp soup. From the patio spread, I enjoyed a serving of seafood paella and a cochinita pork taco. Other options outside included Black Fideua, lamb barbacoa tacos, grilled clams and smoked mussels. We were told that the patio offerings change from week to week.
To top it off, I ordered the pancakes while my husband checked out the French toast along with a macaron and a piece of cake from the dessert bar. I considered a slice of tres leche but decided to wait until next time and chose a small plate of fresh fruit instead. There were some tasty sounding egg dishes included on the kitchen menu that we didn't have room to try either.

My take, it sounds a bit pricey but it was worth it! This is unquestionably one of the most protein packed brunches I've seen.
We loved the quality of the food that was offered and the fantastic service. Live music kept the atmosphere festive. The kitchen entrees, the raw bar items and grilled food are all served to the guests eliminating the yuck factor found at some self-serve buffets. There is great variety for the raw food lover and the cooked options assure that there is something for everyone. We left feeling thoroughly satisfied.

The brunch at Peska is highly recommended as one of the best brunch buffets in Houston.

Edit: Sadly, this restaurant has closed.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sunday Brunch at the Bar at La Table

This was our third time to be at La Table for Sunday brunch in less than two month. Although I've confined my excitement to only writing about it twice here, it is unquestionably becoming one of our top restaurants in Houston and we haven't even tried dinner yet.

This time, we decided to sit downstairs at the bar in La Table's informal dining room, Marche. We indeed found a more casual atmosphere which suited our more simple meal plan for the day. We ordered the Berry Kir Royale brunch cocktail with the collossol crab salad followed by the quiche du jour. We topped that off with coffee and a cinnamon and almond brioche. Tasty, straightforward goodness with entertaining service!

After brunching at this establishment three times in three deliciously different ways, I can say it is one of my favorite new restaurants for brunch in the city. Whether you like your brunch formal and fancy or low-key and casual, La Table is one of the best places in Houston to do it.

The Brunch Buffet at La Table's Chateau