Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Greek On The Go

Go figure Eric has found his way to yet another Greek dining establishment here in Houston, I may or may not have a problem.  But, quitting is for losers, so tonight we are hitting up Papou Jerry's, a food truck that hangs at the West Alabama Ice House on Alabama just east of Shepherd.

The menu here is simple, all pretty much based around gyro meat with a few variations here and there.
The gyro itself was good, simple flavors but quality meat topped off with some flavorful vegetables, and a creamy tzatziki sauce.  The real star of this dish though is the fries, thick cut fries, covered in a Greek seasoning mix that made them simply irresistible.
The next dish we sampled was the Greek Pizza, a pita topped with a tangy tomato sauce, feta, veggies, and of course gyro meat.
The twist of the night was a grilled cheese with gyro, sounds simple but the tender gyro meat tucked into the melted goodness of a grilled cheese was a surprisingly delicious combo.
All in all Papou Jerry's was not a bad stop, but what makes it even better is that if you find yourself throwing back a few cold ones down at the West Alabama Ice House you just have to stumble out to the curb for some good Greek grub.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fancy Pants

For those of you who avidly follow this blog you might realize that I tend to err on the side of cheap.  I am not exactly a regular of fancy restaurants with high class menus, but today we are stepping out of the norm.  This is about a trip to The Bird And The Bear part of the Ouisie's family here in H-town.

To say that the decor in The Bird And The Bear is different, might be an understatement.  Yes, those are chairs hanging from the ceiling and I do not know how to fully accept that but it is fine, the food made up for the oddity.
The meal starts out with a awesome cracker bread, coated in spices and sesame, served up with an olive oil dip filled with herbs and peppers.  I could literally eat this stuff all day and be perfectly happy.
We were in a celebratory meal this day, and so the appetizer of choice was escargot.  I am a big fan of escargot, sure it is snails, but that is aside the fact, this dish was served up in an amazing brandied butter sauce, giving the escargot a much more tangy flavor than the usual butter and garlic sauce I am used to.  The flavor as so much deeper than what I am used to, but that change up made this some of the best escargot I have ever tasted.
Brunch option #1 was The Green Benedict, the idea was brilliant, eggs Benedict with fried green tomatoes and tasso (a Cajun version of ham that is amazing).  Unfortunately, the practice was not as good as the theory, the actual dish is a whole fried green tomato (obviously the fried part did not hold up as well as it should have), and a minimal amount of Hollandaise sauce (Cardinal sin in this guy's Benedict book).  
Once again, good concept mixing in all of these flavors, but I think it would have been better in a more standard Benedict form (sauce, egg, meat, bread) with maybe a slice of fried green tomato, but that is not how this came out, and it was definitely lacking in something.  The home fries and fruit however, were a good side, but it did not make up for the rest of the dish.
The came brunch option #2, for some reason we were stuck on the fried green tomato idea today, and opted for BLTC, a sandwich topped with bacon, fried green tomatoes, and MJ cheese all on some homemade brioche.  Once again, great concept but it was just too much going on for a sandwich, although the house made potato chips helped to lessen to blow.

I cannot recommend The Bird And The Bear for the simple fact that the food was not worth the costs.  The escargot was amazing, but the rest that we ate was mediocre at best and definitely not worth the high end bill that was handed to us at the end of this meal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hub of Deliciousness

For those of you who don't know, Houston has some lovely weather, high humidity and a mild winter night means a nice pea soup fog will be drifting in most evenings, but it also means a decent time to sit outside and not sweat for once.
This was definitely the case one hazy night when we wandered up to Hubcap Grill on 19th Street in the Heights.  The Heights location is home to a great beer yard, perfect for lounging outside and sipping a few cold ones in between downing an amazing burger and fries.
Hubcap had me at hello the moment I saw their beer selection, that choice alone took about 5 times as long as deciding which of their amazing burgers to order.
My theme of the night for beers was to relive my days in Utah, enjoying a Squatters Hop Rising, a 9% double IPA full of bitterness and flavor.
I followed that up with a Wasatch Polygamy Porter, a rich dark ale from the same company, with a great motto of "Why have just one?" nothing like a little Utah humor on a beer label with the flavor to back it up.  As ironic as it may be to some, Utah has a great micro brewing culture that is pumping out some of my favorite beers that I like to indulge in anytime I visit my dad in Salt Lake.
Now on to the burger, I decided to go kinky with this one and selected the Cheeto-Burger, a patty topped with Cheetos and cheese sauce.  The flavors were crazy and the texture blew my mind, but the meat quality and the bun that seems to be made from a pillow makes me think that any combo picked from this broad menu is sure to please the taste buds.
Now do not come here looking for a veggie burger or a whole wheat bun, you come here looking for flavor and a kick ass product that does not end at the burgers.

Their fries are hand cut and ridiculous, and come in an untold number of varieties no matter what your taste may be.  We opted for the Stinky Fries, an aptly named dish of spuds topped off with malt vinegar and garlic.  The bitterness of the vinegar and the pungent garlic are great flavors on these thick cut fries, that seemed to match perfectly to my beer and burger.

Basically this place is perfect for burger lovers and beer lovers alike, and if you are like me and love both it might be just what you imagine heaven to be.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Coming Clean

So I might have been deceiving my loyal readers recently with my blog posts, but today I am coming clean.  I am currently in a workplace diet competition, but the second part is the simple fact that I am way behind on my blog postings.

So today I am finally catching up to a blog posting that happened over Thanksgiving, yes only a few months late for those of you who are counting.

My family has few heirlooms, and even few that are truly useful, but in a recent family get together for Thanksgiving here in H-Town we busted out our crown jewel.
This is our family grinder, in its heyday you could grind just about everything with this handy dandy hand grinder.... Now for those of you avid followers of American Pickers or something along those lines this has no value because my great-grandfather tweaked the original design with a twisted wing nut for a missing component.  This grinder has a patent date from the 1800s ...I do not know what exactly that means but it sure seems awesome.
This grinder makes its annual appearance to grind up cranberries to knock out a great jelly.
After proving my usefulness as the younger male in the family that sacrifices his arm for the sake of the common good, I handed off the ground up berries to my grandmother.
Evidently the secret to all of this, as with most things, is sugar, you let it all simmer and next thing you know you have a cranberry jelly that puts everything I have ever tasted from a can to shame.
If all else fails there is always the perfect fall beer to down with your Thanksgiving goodness.  St Arnold Pumpkinator, a powerful brew, an Imperial Pumpkin Stout that is full of flavor and a 10% ABV that makes it all worth while.

Monday, February 13, 2012


What is the greatest meat in the world?
Sadly no it is not the rainbow flavored joy that comes in these cans, but rather the delicious concoction known as bacon.  The delicious cut of pork belly that has been flavored in some method goes great on just about everything and seems to find a place at every meal.  It is so good there is even an entire restaurant dedicated to it on the west side of Austin's downtown at 10th and Lamar.  Behold the beauty that is Bacon...

Even the door handles here are a homage to the magical meat...
Once you get past the overwhelming bacon theme (note I only provided a small sampling of the cult like decor ), you are forced to stare down an amazing breakfast menu featuring you guessed it, so let us dig in my friends.

First off, this place makes their own bacon, and yes that means it is amazing.  As you can see this day they had two choices of hickory or citrus BBQ so naturally we had to get a plate of both.
The hickory was rich and flavorful, but the star was the citrus BBQ, quite possibly some of the best bacon I have ever tasted in my life.  So good it even has me considering trying to make my own bacon some day just to replicate this flavor.
The favorite dish at the table was the Broken Yolk BLT, your standard BLT set up with a fried egg, between the amazing hickory bacon and the rich flavors of the egg this sandwich was awesome to say the least.
This was the special for the day, the Croque Madame, which was basically an open faced BLT topped with a fried egg, and smothered in a bechamel sauce.  This was not the best dish, basically should have stuck with something different but once again with this awesome of bacon it is hard to make a bad dish.
Behold, the chicken & bacon waffles, yes those are thick waffles with pieces of bacon inside of the rich batter.  Of course it only makes sense to top it off with a piece of battered chicken breast.  Sure it sounds completely crazy, but it is awesome, and once again I am sure it is healthy.
The icing on this awesome cake made of bacon is the soda fountain, housed with old fashioned sodas like Big Red, Dublin Dr Pepper, and Maine Root sodas that are quite frankly amazing.

Basically, if you love bacon you need to get to Bacon, it really could not be much simpler than that.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Keeping Austin Weird

Austin is a weird place, I do not really think there is any denying it.  There are few places in the world where you see old men wandering the streets in a bikini or such a wide variety of tattoos and piercings on just about every inch of skin imaginable.  Nonetheless, Austin does create some of the finest live music, beers, and food around so I will let them stay for the time being.

We stopped in at Casino El Camino one night, a place visited by none other than Diners, Drive Ins and Dives highlighting their unique menu and kinky decor.

Of course when in the Hill Country you have to drink the local water, so I was quenching my thirst that evening with one of my favorites, Fireman's 4 by Real Ale Brewing out of Blanco, Texas.  Fireman's is a crisp blonde ale that seems to go great with just about any food and even better on a hot Texas day.
We came here for the food though and the massive burger patties were calling out name from the moment we walked through the door.  The one weird aspect of Casino is the fact that all of the food orders are done at a tiny back kitchen window and you have to listen closely for your name to be called after a long wait.  Trust me it is worth every minute of waiting.
One of the burgers we went with was the Buffalo Burger, a massive patty topped with bleu cheese and buffalo sauce.  Full of all sorts of flavor from the spicy wing sauce to the creamy richness of the bleu cheese, but the real winner here was the patty, full of amazing beef flavor you just do not find patties like this too often.
Burger #2 was the Pitts Burger, piled high with sauteed mushrooms and onions, A-1 sauce, and provolone cheese.  Yet another masterpiece, and the toppings do a great job of accenting the meat rather than covering it up and hiding it.

Note:  I have been back here since this visit (sorry did not take any pics) but I got the Amarillo Burger, a burger piled up with roasted serrano peppers, pepper jack cheese, and a cilantro mayo.  This burger kicked my butt, serrano peppers are about 3-4 times hotter than a jalapeno, and no amount of beer could help me recover from the tears and inability to breathe, but it was still a damn good burger.

The greatness did not stop at the burgers though, we ordered up some of the Verde Chili Fries, their kick butt fries smothered in queso and a garlicky tomatillo salsa.  Basically these are some of the greatest fries I have had in my life because the toppings alone, plus it keeps you safe from any vampires you might bump into on 6th Street, and I am sure that they are there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's Get Baked

So my weakest skill in all of my cooking abilities has got to be baking.  There is no denying it, I understand that in theory all you have to do is follow directions but I guess that is where my problem lies... shocker.

One of my favorite reads in all of the interweb is the Homesick Texan blog, a great collection of recipes and articles.  That is where I stumbled on this recipe for a Jalapeno Cheese Bread and quite frankly I could not deny my chance to flex my baking muscles.
Yes that is semolina flour, a flour made from durum wheat, do not ask for further information because beyond that I could not tell you what the heck it is.  It certainly does have a nice yellow color to it but who knows what it does to a loaf of bread.  Bakers feel free to enlighten me some day but for now ignorance is bliss.
Normal people have a mixer, I have my man paw and it makes a mean ball of dough.
Always make sure to let the dough rise, if you are a poor bachelor like myself you might be limited on places to leave the dough to rise while you work on a second loaf.  The pantry is a perfectly acceptable if you need a random shelf to hide it.
PSA #1: while working with peppers you should wear a glove, otherwise if you wear contacts like I do you will regret this decision not to for a while, in between your tears and inability to see a dang thing.
After mixing the peppers and cheese into the bread I would recommend covering the loaf in another layer of cheese, I am sure it is healthy, and who does not love a nice crispy cheese crust.  If you do not like the idea of a cheese crust please stop reading this and go away never ever to speak to me again.
Because then you get this beautiful thing.  It may be a dense loaf, but it is a cheesy jalapeno filled brick that works for so many things.

Now time to change up the recipe with loaf numero dos.
PSA #2: Do not forget about the dough that you have rising i the pantry because then it gets tough and and not so easy to knead for those of us who do it all by hand.

So for this second recipe I replaced the cheese and jalapenos with cinnamon and sugar in order to create a dessert alternative for bread.  A little bit of melted butter works wonders (I modeled the recipe idea after watching cinnamon rolls getting made on Man Vs Food at Lulu's in San Antonio) to mix in the cinnamon and sugar and coat it all of the loaf, constantly folding in layer upon of layer of awesome.
Then bam you get this.
A dense sweet bread that works for breakfast or dessert, win win win.

So maybe even someone who sucks at baking can succeed once in a while, I might not volunteer to share these loaves with people, but they sure do look good.

PSA #3: Making bread is messy, especially when I do it.  It is always important to have the proper PPE (that is safety talk for personal protective equipment) and in this case it was an apron, safety glasses probably would not have been a bad idea either.

Thanks Kevin for making yet another appearance through this awesome apron... yes you can be jealous of my Star Wars apron because it is awesome.