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!

Ciro’s Update: Curiouser and Curiouser

I really, really, REALLY need to be working right now.  This is just foolishness…  🙂

Anyway, on Lauren’s advice, I called Monreal Plumbing this morning, the company that was issued a permit to disconnect Ciro’s sewage lines on August 13th.  According to Monreal Plumbing, that job was completed on August 13th, just as the permit report indicated.

Usually, if sewer lines are disconnected, then it’s only a matter of weeks before a property is demolished.  And I’m wondering if it’s possible that Ciro’s honestly has no idea that their sewer lines have been disconnected, or that they have no idea what this whole “demolition” news is all about.

Apparently it’s quite possible, according to this comment left by their manager at Swamplot.  The restaurant maintains that they are open for business and that no demolition is scheduled.  And not to leave any stone unturned, I tried calling Cherry Demolition once again, but with no luck.

So who wants to go watch the drama go down at lunch?  😉

Mysterious Demolition at Ciro’s Italian Grill

I was checking Swamplot over my morning coffee today, as I do every morning, when I saw something that caught my eye:

Daily Demolition Report: Ciro’s Down

Ciro’s is being torn down today?  Wait…what?  I was flummoxed, and let me tell you why…

This incarnation of Ciro’s replaced one that was previously located on the north side of I-10, which was also demolished (to make way for the widening of the Katy Freeway).  Ciro’s has always been a very popular restaurant for the families in Memorial and the Villages, and it still is to this day.  Even if I don’t particularly care for most of their food, there’s no escaping its longstanding popularity.

This new Ciro’s was only built a few short years ago, along with a brand-new Guadalajara’s and a Denis’ Seafood.  This little “restaurant row” is owned/operated/serviced by Metro National, a large real estate development and management company that also runs Memorial City Mall, the Memorial Hermann hospital campus next door, and virtually every other piece of property in the area.  Their restaurant row is hugely popular both during lunch, when they have shuttle service that takes people to and from the restaurants, the mall, the hospital campus and the office buildings, and at dinner.

Lastly, the Ciro’s is attached (rather strangely, I always thought) to a Darque Tan in a unique configuration.  If one were torn down, the other would have to go, too.  But Darque Tan isn’t listed on the demolition permit list that Swamplot gets from the city each day.  Very curious.

Being the Nosy Parker that I am, I called Ciro’s this morning to hear their side of the story.  After all, their website is still operational and nothing is listed in their news section about a closure.  The gentleman who answered the phone stated they were most definitely open for business.  When I asked him about the scheduled demolition, he became very flustered and said that it was the first he’d heard of it.  He got off the phone rather quickly after that.  Not satisfied, I had a coworker call back and ask them again.  This time, a woman answered and gave a definitive, “Yes, we are open for business today.  There is no demolition scheduled.”

I emailed the webmaster at Swamplot, just to give him a heads up.  He forwarded me a copy of the city’s demolition permit report and there it was, in bold, black letters:

It remains to be seen whether or not Ciro’s will actually fall today.  And I simply don’t have the time to research this little oddity any further than this.  My money is on the city making some sort of awful typo in the permit department.  But it would certainly make for an interesting lunch service if the wrecking balls and Caterpillars rolled up as people were getting their antipasto.

“I can run a locomotive with this baby…”

Just as I’m out to dinner this week with three guys from Long Island, Queens and the Bronx, listening as they all moan to me about how there’s no good pizza here in Houston, Ken Hoffman and HAIF come to my rescue:

Russo’s New York Pizzeria (HAIF)

Pizza that’s powered by coal (Ken Hoffman)

Take that, New Yawkers! Now go eat your coal-fired pizzas and leave me to my barbeque.

Batali and Bastianiches!

Attention Houston-area fans of Italian cuisine!

In case you weren’t already lining up outside Central Market, pup tent under one arm and dog-eared copies of Molto Italiano and The Babbo Cookbook under the other, Mario Batali, the great lion himself, and Joseph Bastianich (restauranteur, Batali’s partner in crime and son of the sainted Lidia Bastianich) will be greeting fans and autographing books this Thursday, May 1st from 2:30pm to 4:00pm at the Central Market at Westheimer and Weslayan.  For more information, check out Central Market’s website here.  Tickets can be picked up at the Guest Services desk, one per person.  Your ticket is good for you and one friend, so choose wisely.  According to Alison Cook, there are only a few tickets left, so hustle on over there!

If you’re in Dallas or Austin, and also want your chance to meet some Italian culinary legends, take heart: Joseph Bastianich and the patron saint of Italian food, Lidia Bastianich, (squee!!!) will also be at the Dallas Central Market on Friday, May 2nd for a meet-and-greet and book signing (contact store for more details on tickets and times at 214-509-9215).  Dallas foodies: I am so jealous of you right now.  That might be the only time you ever hear me say that, too, so note this for posterity.

Austinites won’t be able to meet Mario or Lidia, but will be treated to an event that I think is just as special: a wine class with Joseph Bastianich at the North Lamar location this Wednesday, April 30th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.  Tickets are $20.00 per person, and I imagine the class will fill up pretty quickly (if it hasn’t already).  More details can be found here.  Bastianich will also be signing books that afternoon in the wine department, from 2:00pm to 4:00 pm.

Images courtesy of Wine Spectator and New York Magazine.

Easy Cheesy Pizza Teasies

Lately, something that’s very high up on the list of Things I Utterly Despise is the newest Olive Garden commercial. You know the one. The husband and wife are telling their Olive Garden waitress (who, in real life, would not give two shits about why you’re there or even what you want to order) that they’re at Olive Garden tonight because they’re “treating” themselves.

Wait… what? Treating yourselves? At Olive Garden?

You could have sat at home and microwaved a can of Campbell’s minestrone soup and cooked a box of Hamburger Helper and accomplished the exact same thing, minus the tacky decor. Then again, if you’re “treating” yourselves by going to Olive Garden, then I imagine that the plastic ferns and faux Venetian plaster probably are your idea of haute interior design.

Or maybe you live in Waco, where I suffered for four years in the pursuit of higher education. In that case, Olive Garden and Red Lobster were — seriously, far and away — the nicest restaurants in town.  They were also ideally situated in the parking lot of the only mall in town.  And I believe they might have been the only restaurants in Waco to give you cloth napkins.  In that case, your choices for a pleasant night out involved either cheese biscuits at the Red Lobster or driving two hours to Austin.

And if that’s the case, then run this abomination of a commercial in places like Waco or Abilene or Lufkin.   That crap does not belong on the air in Houston, or any other major city.  Because we hate it, and hate you even more by association, Olive Garden.

I think MadTV summed it up best: