I’m Back, Bitches!: Or An Adventure At Mala Sichuan Bistro.

Last night my husband, a friend of ours, and I derided to go out to eat. We couldn’t decide where to go so we just got in the car and started driving which made my husband’s butt cheeks clinch up. Then I remembered the Sichuan restaurant located where Mo Mong used to be. I have never had Sichuan and have always wanted to try it. This experience made me come back here and write on my food blog that hardly anyone reads after a few years off from it. It was that good.

I was so hungry and ate so quickly that not only did I probably scare and disgust most of the people dining around us, but I didn’t have time to tale pictures. So instead, I offer you a picture of my dog, because he was very cute and photogenic and will make you smile.

atticus robe

As appetizers we split the mala tofu and peanut dish which basically consist of tofu, peanuts and green onions floating in hot chili oil. We also ordered one of the cold dishes: pork belly wrapped cucumbers in hot chili oil. Mark got the dry pot spicy beef and Tony and I split the aromatic and spicy prawns. We also ordered a side of bok choy for the table.

I was initially interested in ordering the green peppercorn flounder, but the waitress advised me to try the peppercorns first, explaining that they had numbing effect that not everyone found pleasing. Each of us tried one and it began with the flavor of a typical peppercorn and then turned to a more citrus puckering, numbing sensation, so we opted not to get anything from the peppercorn section of the menu.

The bok choy was clean and mild, with chunks of garlic and dried chilies, which were very spicy if you ate one whole. The spicy and aromatic prawns were salty, savory, and spicy with a mild sweetness to it that was mild enough to not overpower the heat and complexity of the flavors in he dish. This dish also had dried chilies and julienned jalapenos. Mark’s dry pot beef was also spicy with a more citrus nuance and the beef was tender. The pork belly wrapped cucumber was fresh, cold, aromatic, and also had a nice heat. If you like peanuts, the mala tofu peanut dish is delicious and spicy.

They have a few options for vegans/vegetarians such as the Mapo Tofu and the above mentioned Mala tofu appetizer. The also have plenty of seafood dishes for the pescetarians out there. As of yet they do not have a liqueur license, so you may not be able to order wine with dinner. The waitress informed us that they are working on that. However, I believe you can bring your own because I did see several other diners with wine and beer at their tables.

Mala Sichuan still has their original location in Chinatown and, as our waitress explained, they have an authentic classic Sichuan menu. They still have authentic Sichuan options at their Montrose location, but also some modified options for those who need something a little less authentic.

Mala Sichuan Bistro is located at 1201 Westheimer, Houston, Rexas 77006.

#Sichuan #Montrose #Cantonese

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My Bad Taste in Food Admissions

I know I’m annoying as hell about food. When Gwyneth Paltrow said she would rather “smoke crack than eat cheese out of a tin”, people excoriated her on various online forums for a being a pretentious, self-entitled brat. But, I secretly agreed. I would rather smoke crack than eat a lot of things out of a can. However, I did have on ongoing love affair with Vienna sausages when I was a kid.

That being said, I should give thanks and praise where it is due. Therefor, I am going to share with you some of the things that I like that fall under the category of things I normally complain about. By that I mean, I am going to describe all the white trash, processed food, fast food items that I love.

1) Taco Cabana. I love this place. I know it’s fast food, and I know I’m on the record saying that fast food is for people who have “given up.” But TC is just plain good. They actually have decent vegetarian options on their menu, and their fresh salsa bar is a seriously praise worthy. They offer a variety of different types of salsa from green to red, to a chipotle smoky variety. On top of that, they have peppers, onions, lime wedges, and fresh cilantro. And I’d do a lot of illegal things for those tortillas. One of my friends actually called the corporate headquarters and tried to convince them to build a Taco Cabana on the vacant lot next to her house.

2) Beck’s Prime. I know I don’t eat a lot of meat, so some of my reviews are biased, but they have tasty fish burger. Now, I can’t remember what kind of fish. I could swear a while back they had swordfish burgers, but now they serve a tuna burger. They also have sweet potato fries for those of you who like them.

3) El Rey, Ruchis, and Tapatia- the three taquerias of the gods. El Rey differs from the other two as it is Cuban versus Mexican, but all three have great Tacos. The food is inexpensive, some of it is quite fresh, and you don’t wait an hour for a table like you would at most Mexican restaurants. Ruchis also serves big chunks of pickled garlic that is delicious when mashed and then dipped in their green salsa.

4) Collina’s. It’s Italian, and while I’m not a huge fan of Italian based on the premise that I can make my own spaghetti, they have good pizza and the best calamari I have had. As much as I adore battered and fried calamari, they have a calamari that is sauteed in wine and butter, which is both lighter and more flavorful. I’m a sucker for rare acts of simplicity.

5) Whataburger. Hey, their egg taquitos are fabulously white trash with their non-homemade tortillas and processed cheese. Their Whatacatch rocks too.

6) McDonald’s fries. You heard me. They are long and crispy and taste like were battered in pure salt. Yum!

7) Good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love natural peanut butter and prefer it over the typical kind with hydrogenated oils and sugar. Natural peanut butter just has substance and flavor that regular peanut butter doesn’t have. However, I cannot quit the processed refined white sugar trans-fat bleached white flower goodness that makes up a Jiff (or whatever brand you love) and Smuckers strawberry jelly on that white bread that balls up on the roof of your mouth.

8) While I am a chocolate snob, preferring the artisianal dark chocolate that is more cocoa than sugar, I will slap your mom in the face with my dick for a Reesus buttercup.

9) Ruffles and Cheetos. I certainly appreciate the effort of those companies that try to put a healthy spin on these products, but junk food is junk food and every now and then I just accept the fact that I am putting absolute crap in my body and I just go for it. Radioactive orange coating that I get to lick off my finger? I can eat a whole bag of those crunchy little bitches.

10) Luby’s. There. I said it. I love Luby’s. Their reconstituted mashed potatoes and gelatinous gravy. Their fried okra and that fried fish (I don’t what that really was on my plate but that’s what they called it), and their jalapeno corn bread! Damn!!!

Bonus round- corn dogs and hot dogs with yellow mustard. None of that fancy stuff but bright yellow mustard. For the hot dog, along with the mustard, there has to be a slice or two of that processed cheese that comes in those little fold over wrappers (yes, the very cheese I normally curl my lip at in disgust), and canned sliced jalapenos.

So there you have it. I too have my own bad taste in food sometimes. And sometimes it’s the perfect craving that needs to be satiated. Nothing makes me happier when I am PMSing than a plate full of greasy cheesy enchiladas.

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There’s a Little French in Everyone, N’est Pas?

I have two friends who enjoy trying new foods as much as I do. These two friends also enjoy a good stinky cheese of the dirty gym sock ilk. So yesterday we decided to go all out and make a day of eating, eating, cooking, and more eating. And we were feeling an affinity for French food.

A little about that. Growing up, I had an obsession with French people, the language, the things they ate, the way they lived, etc. From fourth through eight grade I attended an international school and my best friend was a girl named Celine. Her parents were temporarily living in America for her father’s work and I was a frequent overnight guest in their house. This experience only exacerbated my Francophilia, much to my mother’s delight and sometimes chagrin. Meals at Celine’s house simply reinforced my feelings about food and my obsession with the French. Dinner always had a pitcher of water with slices of lemon floating in it, a chilled bottle of Perrier (which I fell in LOVE with and to this day still drink gallons of), and a glass of wine for the adults. I remember plates of fish, or nicely cooked red meats, or chicken. And there was always at least one vegetable of some sort and always a green salad. My favorite part was dessert. While the French are known for their patisseries, dessert at Celine’s house consisted of fruit and cheese. What delighted me the most was the plum and bonne belle miniature cheese that was offered for dessert. Sometimes they would have weekend afternoon gatherings where it took three hours to consume small amounts of food (small by typical American standards), and wine was consumed moderately as well as sweets. And as I stated before, there was always some kind of vegetable. It’s no wonder that the “French paradox” is not a myth but a truth. Mireille Guilano even wrote a book about the subject, and when remembering Celine’s house and the food we ate, and most important the way we ate, it comes as no surprise that French people are rarely fat, in spite of the food they eat.

Part of it is most likely the variety, but also the fact that they eat real food. Their diets consist of little to no processed food, they drink a lot of water, they eat smaller portions, and they make meals a ritual of love. Here in America, we drive everywhere, eat at a speed that almost makes it a competition to see who can finish first, and make food choices for the worst reasons. And we eat portions that make it look as though we are about to go into some sort of six month long hibernation. We eat in stressful conditions or not at all, playing hazardous games with our blood sugar. I have been in situations at previous jobs where I was literally congratulated for skipping meals, and where stepping off the sales floor to snack on some almonds was looked down upon, but a cigarette break was applauded as some sort of proof of industriousness.  I remember working for one (forgive the vitriol you about to be confronted with, but this manager was a truly heinous person to work for) woman who despised me for taking my full thirty minutes that employees were legally entitled to. I refused to eat while working but instead chose to eat at a leisurely pace, or leave the building to walk if the weather was nice and I wasn’t hungry. I will NEVER forsake my health for a job. I have no problem working my butt off, but I will treat my body kindly. The healthier I am, the more you will get out of me.

Okay, rant is over!

The French way of dining and living clearly stayed with me, much to the chagrin of corporate America. Part of this was my early experiences with Celine and her very French family, but I later found out that my great grandmother was French, so I like to think it’s also in my blood. Also still with me is my proclivity toward badly spoken French, or as I like to call it: Frenglish.

Anyway, we decided on French food and the French restaurant that I am the most acquainted with is Cafe Rabelais. I have been there on more than one occasion, but Katie and Rod had not. We invited our friend Miranda to join us and made our way over to the Rice Village.

We started off with the cheese plate and the pate. At our request, the waiter brought a stinkier cheese to add to the mix. With the hot rustic bread they serve, we gorged on the cheese and pate. Even more exciting, the plate comes with a small bowl of lightly toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, and a dish of honey with a piece of the comb. Yum!

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As you can see in the pictures, I am terrible about taking pictures of food for my blog postings because I am terrible about waiting to eat. If there is anything you take away from the pictures in this blog, it’s that if the pictures consist of the remnants of the meal, the food was wonderful, because we just couldn’t wait to eat.

Katie and I both tend to get full quickly, so we agreed to split the mussels Rabelais because we both had a craving for mussels. Their mussels come with a side of the most deliciously salty, crispy slender fries I’ve had save for McDonald’s. I know I bitch a lot about fast food and people who eat fast food (get ready for the hypocrisy here) but I will admit to loving McDonald s fries. The mussels were in a creamy, shallot- infused sauce that was almost like a gravy. It was served with a lemon half and sprig of rosemary. There was a lot of moaning. Truth be told, Katie and I tend to make way too much noise when we enjoy our food and sometimes these noises border on inappropriate.

While delicious, the mussels were bit different than the last time I had them. Before they were so big and plump it was almost intimidating (in a good way), and the sauce was a more broth-like consistency. It appears that they choose fresh (fresher than most restaurants) ingredients, so it’s possible that the chef doesn’t have control over the size of the mussels. They were still delicious, flavorful, and savory. Katie and I left not a drop of sauce behind as we used both the bread and the fries as a vehicle.

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Rod ordered the seared salmon in beurre blanc sauce, which was delectable. It had the right amount of creaminess with a citrus burst at the end. It was light pink in the middle, which was a small disappointment to Rod as he likes his barely cooked in the middle, but it was still delicate and melted on your tongue. For those who don’t like their salmon rare, this would be perfect because it was fully cooked but not to the point of making it tough.

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Let’s talk dessert, shall we? I rarely do dessert because I don’t have a sweet tooth, but when in a French restaurant…

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Their dessert is a force to be reckoned with. Miranda ordered the creme brulee (pictured above). It was exactly what creme brulee is supposed to be, a porcelain crispy top that when cracked, yields a creamy custard center with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. I even took video of her tapping the top to see if it sounded like a spoon hitting a porcelain surface (I hope the video works):

If this video doesn’t work, you can find it here

Rod ordered chocolate mousse, which elicited a shout of joy that made the girl sitting at the bar jump about a mile high. Actually, I’m pretty sure we made a lot of people jump that day, or grimace in irritation, or just made them plain uncomfortable. This would be because Katie and I moan and gasp and then make constant sexual comments about the food, because good food is a truly sexual experience for us. Sorry Cafe Rabelais, if you don’t want people making so much noise, then don’t make your food so god damn tasty!

Katie and I split a tart. A peach and honey pluot tart. I may be mistaken, but I believe pluots are a hybrid between a plum and an apricot. I’ll have to look that up because I may be giving false information here. This tart was delicious enough to make me cuss up a blue streak. The crust was buttery and flaky and crispy in a way that only (as Katie informed me) a crust can be as long as lard is involved. The peaches and pluots were tangy and sweet and the consistency was more creamy than gelatinous. Needless to say, we enjoyed every particle that passed our lips.

023This wasn’t the end of our gluttony. Our taste buds had been teased and cheese was on the mind, so we headed over to Houston Dairymaids. If you haven’t heard of this place, and you love cheese, you are about to be dazzled. Houston Dairymaids is a local cheese shop/warehouse. The picture below is a cheese tasting for three (and it’s free)! And if you want to know more about this magical place, you can read this.

Here is an example of a cheese tasting.

Here is an example of a cheese tasting.

Bon appetit, mes cheres!

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Question About the Bee Situation… Seriously

So, I love raw local honey. And while I am scared of bees (yes, I know I’m a big pussy),when one gets in the house, I take a deep breath and capture the little guy and set him free outside.

I do this for two reason: 1) They are really necessary for the earth, and life in general. They serve a major, undeniable purpose on this planet, 2) In spite of my fear of being stung, I love their little furry bodies with their black and yellow stripes.

So, are we fucking the bees royally by buying honey? Or is a matter of where we’re getting it from? For example, if we buy some mass produced crap at Kroger’s, is that different from buying it from a local farm run by a family who takes care of their bees.

I like to imagine that beekeepers treat their bees like pets. I’m also really weird and should probably research this.

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Houston Dairymaids: That’s All I Really Have to Say

Inside Houston Dairymaids warehouse/shoppe.

Inside Houston Dairymaids warehouse/shoppe.

The same day we went to Cafe Rabelais which you can read about here, we went to Houston Dairymaids. If you haven’t heard of this place, and you love cheese, you are about to hear about what amounts to what I like to call a giant unicorn made out of cheese. But this place is more than just cheese. They carry local artisanal foods and products such as local honeys, jams, breads, olives, nuts, oils, wines, chocolates, butter, yogurt, and cheese curds. I still have a jar of some cinnamon creamed honey that I bought there and it is delicious. Once you have had local honey, you will never go back to the watery, flat tasting honey that you buy at the grocery store.

Why is this place special? Why should you, if possible, buy certain things here instead of Kroger’s or even Whole Foods? Well, there are many answers to that. First of all, you are supporting local farms and/or companies. So if you find yourself bitching about Walmart, this is the best revenge against it. Also, local purchases tend to generate a smaller carbon footprint; it’s more “green.” The food is better, much better than what you get in a regular market. Eating real food is much better for you than eating processed crap. The cows, sheep, and goats that produce the milk that is used to make these cheeses, yogurts, and butter are free range, grass/herb fed, and treated humanely. When you eat these products, you aren’t eating hormones and antibiotics, and you aren’t eating something that came from an animal that was terrorized and made to suffer for it either. Did I mention the cost? Some of the things are a bit pricey. Almost ten dollars for some honey, and almost eight dollars for some butter (which I will give more detail about), but it’s quality stuff and lasts a long time. But their cheese is priced very fairly. For the quality you get, you pay less than you would pay if you went to Whole Foods or the cheese shop at Kroger’s. It’s really a win-win situation.

Artisanal products.

Artisanal products.

Passive demos on products!

Passive demos on products!

Did I mention the free cheese tasting? Yeah, you heard me. They offer everyone a free cheese tasting. They arrange a platter of about six cheeses, usually their six featured cheeses of the day. Each cheese is cut into a bite sized amount so you can taste it and they will explain what type of milk is used, how it’s made, and what things you can do with the cheese, as well as offer suggestions for pairing.

Here is an example of a cheese tasting.

Here is an example of a cheese tasting.

I decided on two cheese for the house and then I bought three more for the gathering later because Katie and Rod and I were heading back to his house to cook more food! I chose the bosque blue which is a pungent blue with a lovely vein that is almost crystallized when you bite into it. To appease my husband’s palette (he likes milder cheeses), I chose the Marieke smoked Gouda. It is tangy with a smoky finish. I normally do not like smoked cheeses because they often taste like plastic and they always taste like they have been injected with liquid smoke flavoring. Not this cheese though.

They also have a selection of pre-wrapped, under five dollar cheeses.

They also have a selection of pre-wrapped, under five dollar cheeses.

This morning I set out to make breakfast and I wanted to make something special so I decided on scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, grits, and pumpernickel bread toast. Sounds simple but I added my own touch with the help of Houston Dairymaids. I began caramelizing some yellow onions with cherry wood smoked sea salt (a gift from Rod), smoked paprika, and fresh dill from the garden.

A sampler of smoked sea salts that Rod gave me.

A sampler of smoked sea salts that Rod gave me.

Once the onions were caramelized, I added the smoked Gouda, crab meat, and dill.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

The grits were made with stone ground cornmeal, so it took a good 45 minutes to an hour to make but so worth it. Ten minutes before taking it off the burner, I added a diced Serrano pepper and mozzarella cheese.

Stone ground cornmeal grits.

Stone ground cornmeal grits.

Diced Serrano pepper and smoked Gouda from Houston Dairymaids.

Diced Serrano pepper and smoked Gouda from Houston Dairymaids.

This is where one of their artisanal products comes into the picture. I put Lucky Layla’s golden butter on the toast, and the grits. You can see the golden color in the picture above (about passive demos).

The best butter in the world!

The best butter in the world!

Lucky Layla Farm is a local dairy farm located in Garland, Texas. The butter comes from Guernsey and Jersey cows. This butter tastes the way it looks: golden and sunny. It’s full of flavor.

smoked Gouda

smoked Gouda

Served with some dark, flavorful Costa Rican coffee, breakfast was a hit!

015You can check out Houston Dairymaids here and learn about Lucky Layla Farms and the other local companies they work with.

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The Sound of a Spoon Tapping the Surface of Creme Brulee

Cafe Rebelais serves a delicious creme brulee. I wanted to share the short video I took of Miranda tapping the surface with her spoon to indicate the perfection of this creme brulee.

(Either I PAY to be allowed to post videos directly or I post a link to my youtube channel. This process was a royal pain in the ass, so I hope this works.)

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I’m BACK… and ready to talk Lola’s

I’m back! It’s been over a year. In that year, I started grad school, so I didn’t have time for writing. I did have time for eating though.

The husband and I were ravenous so we decided we had to try some place new, so we went here

I had driven by Lola’s many times but when i checked out the menu, I was always a little bit underwhelmed with it. Salads and sandwiches tend to leave me feeling a bit empty. But this morning I saw chicken and waffles on the menu and the game was on.

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We headed over, found a parking spot in their decently sized parking lot and ordered. I confirmed with the cashier that the chicken was fried because what would be the point otherwise. The husband ordered the ham and three-cheese omelet, with sausage, grits, and sour dough toast.

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I can’t speak for the omelet, except to say that the husband loved it. My dish was delicious.

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Now, if you have had the wings and waffles at the Breakfast Klub, you have been spoiled. The Breakfast Klub still reigns supreme in my book as far as wings and waffles go, but these aren’t far behind. The Breakfast Klub uses dark meat, usually wings or thighs, which I prefer. Lola’s uses the breast, which appears to be tenderized and the breading is nice and crispy. It was a bit dry, but not enough to be distracting. The waffle was fluffy, and came with a side of butter and syrup and had a dollop of whipped cream covering a mixture of berries.

The thing that makes Lola’s stand out is the quality. My dish featured local, free-range chicken and natural applewood smoked bacon.

It was agreed that we would certain;y go back. Check out their website here

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