La Torretta: A Preview

Getting ready to head over to a pumpkin-carving party in a bit (and getting ready to get incredibly messy pumpkin guts all over me as I hack-job a perfectly good pumpkin with my complete lack of artistic skills), so no long post today.

But I just returned from an overnight stay at La Torretta del Lago, the new resort that’s opening up in Lake Conroe in only a week, and wanted to share some pictures from our dinner last night with Chef Albert Roux.  Enjoy!

Menu

The rest of the pictures can be seen at my Flickr account: La Torretta set.

A full write-up will come soon. Until then, barn swallows!

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What’s Your Sign?

By far the most bizarre food-related article I’ve seen all week:

The Best Beer for You, According to Your Sun Sign

…yeah.

According to the article:

With the countless beers that are offered, it can be a bit overwhelming to order a pint out of your comfort zone. But as with all other tastes, your Sun Sign may be of assistance. Peruse the list below, and you may find a new favorite!

I will let you know right now that I have never been overwhelmed by a beer list.  If anything, it is a treasure map.  But I recognize that not everyone might share my fondness for seeking out random little microbrews to try, so let’s put the article to work…

I’m a Scorpio.  What kind of beers should I like, MSN Astrology-and-beer experts?

Intense, secretive, and usually much more interested in sweet concoctions, you can fool them all with Old Ruffian Barley Wine. It has that sweet, almost honey-like consistency that your feisty side craves, but it still passes as Oktoberfest-appropriate. But be forewarned: many barley wines have a higher alcohol content, so don’t get stung!

WRONG.  I hate barley wine.  I hate sweet beers in general.  Give me a bitter, hoppy beer over anything else.

Let’s try Richard, who’s an Aquarius:

Inquisitive and unpredictable, you usually don’t deny anything that the bartender puts in front of you. So how about something hearty to ground you a bit? Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is not only rich with froth, but despite its hearty name, it also complements most fare! Have a pint, and watch the leaves fall!

WRONG.  Richard hates stouts and only indulges in lagers, Stella Artois being his favorite, which would make him a Leo.

How about you?  Do they have your beer preference pegged or not?

The Days of Mediocre Food and Roses…

sans roses.  Which makes the days even less enjoyable.  Meh.

The week has been filled so far with ample opportunities for good food, and yet everything has fallen short so far.  I hate weeks like that.

Monday afternoon was the perfect day for a lunch outside, luminous blue skies and cool weather glittering brilliantly across the city.  Except that I spent my lunch hour on a dingy couch in a shady inspection sticker place off Long Point, sitting in uncomfortable proximity to a man in a “U.S. Army Artillery Unit” gimme cap with dirty socks pulled up to his knees, who muttered incessantly to himself in between short bursts of yelling, “Hey, boss!  Heya, boss!  Heya!”  I don’t even know that he had a car there to be inspected.  And I ended up failing my inspection after all that.

Monday evening was spent in a private room upstairs at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse.  On hand was plenty of free wine and hors d’oeuvres.  Wine?  Good.  Hors d’oeuvres?  Should have been good, but were frustratingly mediocre: overcooked lobster, well-done steak, fried asparagus with sickeningly sweet sauce.  Then again, what kind of complete jerk complains about free food?  Well…me, I guess.  I ended up eating a stray granola bar at home later on.  You willingly eat a grotty old granola bar, but complain about free lobster?  you may ask me.  Yes.  The difference?  I expect the granola bar to be mediocre.

Tuesday’s lunch was…oh, wait.  I didn’t get a lunch break on Tuesday.  I spent the morning at that squat, hideous, unapologetic trash-magnet, the Harris County Courthouse on Chimney Rock, and had to work through lunch to halfway catch up on the piles of crap littering my desk.

Tuesday evening was slightly better.  We (myself and some fellow Houstonist writers) started out with drinks at Gingerman.  All things are made better by Gingerman.  I had a crisp, refreshing pint of Saint Arnold’s Elissa IPA (oh-so-hoppy and delicious) and enjoyed the gorgeous weather with my gorgeous Houstonist friends.  We ordered the spinach-artichoke dip, but ended up getting a bowl that looked as if it had been grabbed off another table, half-eaten and then nuked.  It was disgusting.  We ate it anyway.

Feeling that we should attempt to procure some better food, we headed directly across the street to that quaint little Italian market/restaurant D’Amico’s.  I hadn’t eaten at D’Amico’s in years, but had some very fond memories of a smashing walnut and wild mushroom risotto that I’d ordered several times with exceptional results each time.  Scanning the menu, I was sad to see that they seemed to have taken it off and replaced it with a walnut and wild mushroom tortellini instead.

I ordered the tortellini, looking to get that elusive walnut/wild mushroom fix any way I could.  We sat under the darkening sky outside, laughing, bitching, telling stories and generally being far too philosophical for a Tuesday night.  The company, at least, was fantastic.  The food, not so much.  We all happened to order various tortellini dishes.  And we all agreed that the tortellini was far too doughy, the fillings too dense, the sauces too watery, doing nothing to hold the dishes together.  Once again, frustratingly disappointing.  I think it’s too soon to claim that D’Amico’s has jumped the shark, but I’m only giving them one more shot after that.

Today’s lunch was a last-minute bite at Berryhill’s.  I used to be a huge fan of theirs, especially their happy hours and their tamales, but my feelings for them have become extremely lukewarm in recent years.  Today’s lunch just reaffirmed my waning affections.  The fish tacos had almost no cilantro in them (you will not deny me cilantro!), very little red cabbage and disgustingly over-fried, eeeeenormous portions of fish.  Let me elaborate briefly on the “over-fried” part, if you will: there was more liquid in the tacos from the grease dripping off the fish than from the almost non-existent remoulade sauce.  Horrid.  At least the hot pickled carrots were reliably good (although one never truly knows how long those have been hanging around…).

Tonight’s dinner will most likely be whatever I scavenge out of the cupboard when I finally make it home.  I swear to God, this week better shape itself up food-wise unless it wants me to give up food blogging for a while.  But there is hope yet: the weekend is still to come!

Tuesday Trivia: Part Holy Crap It’s Back!

Wow.  I know, right?  So, anyway…

Last night was spent at Del Frisco’s with the lovely Jenny of I’m Never Full (and now Citysearch!), attending the check presentation party to wrap up Houston Restaurant Week, which you can read all about here:  Y’all Raised $78,877!  Needless to say, that was pretty awesome.

Also awesome was the lovely cabernet that was flowing freely, courtesy of Messina Hof.  And that brings us to today’s trivia theme: beverages.  You know how I love a good theme…

  1. Which of the following beverages was not available to American pioneers during the 19th century?  Carbonated water, iced tea, vodka, or beer?
  2. Chicory is well-known as a coffee substitute.  What common nut was also used throughout American history to make coffee when no coffee beans were available?
  3. Although we may view it as an all-American beverage, lemonade has actually been a popular drink since medieval times.  Where was it first served and enjoyed?
  4. Diet sodas were introduced in the 1950s as a way of marketing artificial sweeteners to the general public.  What company patented the first diet soda?
  5. Most species of domesticated livestock have been milked — and the milk enjoyed by humans — at some point or another in history.  But which of these animals has not been used as a source of milk?  Yaks, donkeys, horses or pigs?
  6. BONUS:  In Western culture, the milk of what animal was favored over the cow until the 16th century?

Drink it up, folks!  See you all back here on Thursday for the answers…

VOICE, A Prelude

This is not a review of VOICE.  Not yet, at least.

Aside from the little issue of trying to forcibly extract the evening’s photos from my camera as it groans and bleats and emits tiny, rasping death rattles, I simply can’t be unbiased about the restaurant.  Which is unusual.

I’m a pretty unbiased person by nature.  Even when I start feeling twinges of favoritism towards a person or object or food or beverage, I always remind myself that I will lose out, ultimately, in a game of favorites, since it tends to close one off to the rest of life’s possibilities.  I enjoy playing Devil’s advocate.  Some call it arguing; I call it “seeing all sides.”  I think you get it.

But we were so terribly spoiled and pampered at VOICE last night — in the absolute best, most non-pandering, non-grating, non-superficial way — that I have no idea how to write a “review” that isn’t tinted with an overly rosy glow.  I feel like it would read as if I were a 13-year-old, gushing about her first crush.  I’m going to take all of this into consideration for a while, and will hopefully emerge with a post that isn’t obscured by my feelings towards the place.

That said, however, our experience last night was unparalleled.  The warm service, the endlessly beautiful interiors, the voluptuous wines and expert pairings, the visits from Chef Kramer and his keen crew, the heavenly amuse bouche, the dusky mushroom soup, the tender and submissive short ribs, the exotic five-spice ice cream, the creative cocktails and clever platings — everything was wonderful.

You see how this could quickly devolve into a love letter to VOICE, right?  Let me put some restraints on, and I’ll hopefully be back tomorrow with an even-handed (albeit highly positive) review.  See you then…

Image courtesy of http://www.hotelicon.com.

Give Me the Food

I love Miss Platinum.

I wish that I had “being Romanian” as an excuse for overindulging in food.  Bonus points: I could run around exclaiming, “Opa!” whenever I felt like it.  When people inevitably question me, I would just tell them “Hey, I’m Romanian!”

It’s like my friend who uses being Polish as an excuse for nearly every strange thing she says or does (hi, Peachka!).  Yesterday we were discussing the earthquake in Los Angeles and how she felt it all the way in Santa Barbara, where she lives:

“It was a weird, wobbly feeling.  Like, at first I thought I was imagining it.”

“Craziness.”

“Yeah.  I thought I was drunk.”

“Wait.  Wasn’t it, like, 11:45 in the morning when the earthquake hit?”

“Yeah…”

“And you thought things were wobbly and weird because you were drunk?”

“Yeah…”

“At 11:45 in the morning?”

“Hey, I’m Polish.”

CityCentrestaurants

See what I did up there?  That’s because we live in A-MURR-CA, not England.  It’s spelled “center.”

*ahem*

Been wondering about the new restaurants and watering holes going into the new CityCentre mixed-use development on the site of the old Town & Country Mall?  Well, wonder no more.  I’ve got yer lists right here, baby.

  • Ra Sushi
  • Brio Tuscan Grille
  • Como Se Dice (“modern Mexican”)
  • Eddie V’s
  • Sur La Table (which isn’t a restaurant, so I don’t know why it’s listed)
  • The Wine Loft
  • Potbelly Sandwich Works
  • Chipotle
  • Jamba Juice
  • The Yard House (yippee!!!)

There will be more added to that list as leases are signed, buildings are finished, etc.  And, of course, there’s going to be a Studio Movie Grill, which will — frankly — be bad ass.  I’m most excited about The Wine Loft and The Yard House (big surprise to you all, I’m sure), but the entire thing looks like it will bring a certain ITL ambience to our little slice of Memorial, which ain’t all bad.  I don’t want people out here getting big ITL heads, mind you, but it would be awfully nice not to have to hop on the Katy Freeway anymore to get decent sushi, sample some microbrews or catch an arthouse flick.

Suck on that, Inner Loopers!  😉