Savory Spice Shop in Rice Village: An Easy Way to Test Out New Smells and Tastes

Categories: Grocery Guide

The 5 Best Happy Hours in the Galleria

Photo by Troy Fields
Recognize this bar? We'll give you a hint: free pizza.
If you love happy hour as much as we do, you'll love this new series. We're taking a look at the best happy hours in town, 'hood by 'hood. To narrow it down, we're focusing on the spots with the best deals on not only drinks, but eats, too. From upscale eateries serving bar bites and half-priced wine to dives with cheap beer and burgers, we've got it all. See the complete list at the end of this post

This week, we're moving on to the bar and restaurant packed 'hood around the Galleria.

Note: For purposes of this list, the Galleria is defined as anything west of Loop 610, south of Woodway, east of South Voss/Hillcroft and north of Richmond Avenue.

Honorable Mention: Craft cocktails and small plates at RDG Bar + Annie, fresh and bold Peruvian flavors at Latin Bites, and 7 for $7 at Table on Post Oak.

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A Wine Competition For A Cause:
Iron Sommelier 2014

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Iron Sommelier 2014 is just a few weeks away!
Iron Sommelier, the annual wine competition and fundraiser, returns on October 2nd from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Houstonian. The event benefits The Periwinkle Foundation, a non-profit organization which helps seriously ill children and their families. It's also an opportunity for Houston's top sommeliers to go out and demonstrate their deep knowledge of wine.

The somms come up with a theme and present wines for attendees to taste that best represents it. The theme may be about a particular grape, region or style of wine. There are also plenty of small bites and snacks, overseen by The Houstonian's executive chef, Neal Cox.

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Filling the Gaps: Tel-Wink Grill

Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
My wife only gave me one bite of this waffle. That says something.
I've lived in Houston for 22 years. It took me 16 of those to visit the Rothko Chapel for the first time. I didn't eat at Ninfa's on Navigation until I'd counted myself a Houstonian for nearly a decade. I still haven't eaten at Frenchy's. The list of glaring omissions goes on and on. Before you boot me from the city for civic negligence, or at least refuse to continue allowing me to write about Houston food, let me assure you that 2014 is the year I start fixing this problem. I'm making a list of places. Places I should have been by now. Places even I can't believe I haven't visited. This is the year I get (re)acquainted with my city. Maybe you'll find a few from your own list in these posts. I encourage you to follow suit.

I've almost gone to Tel-Wink more times than I care to count. Once, I accidentally went to Triple A when I'd meant to go to Tel-Wink, somehow confusing the two famed breakfast haunts, neither of which I'd been to. More often, the mission was aborted on account of kids, and their often staunch insistence on sticking in a rut, and to a known favorite. While we had one such tiny person with us when we finally made it out to Tel-Wink, he has not yet developed the ability to speak, making his only possible veto one of all restaurants. Thankfully, he abstained.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Rebecca Masson of
Fluff Bake Bar

Categories: Chef Chat
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Rebecca Masson inside of the shop that will become Fluff Bake Bar
We haven't had a Chef Chat with Becky Masson since 2010 and a whole heck of a lot has happened since then. Here are just a few highlights. 

In 2011, she competed on "Top Chef: Just Desserts" and represented Houston admirably, despite not winning. Not too much later, for the first time Fluff Bake Bar found permanent retail placement for its desserts at Revival Market and Inversion. In 2013, the Kickstarter intended to fund Fluff Bake Bar looked for weeks like it wasn't going to succeed and ended up getting the last big chunk of cash needed on the very last day. 

With any luck, Fluff Bake Bar may even be open in time for Thansgiving. Cross your fingers that the City of Houston approvals and permitting go through quickly so we can all order pies. 

In Part 1 of this Chef Chat, we get some in-depth information about Masson's roots: how she went from being a Colorado snowboard bum to the Cordon Bleu and then to Michelin-starred restaurants in France and New York. How did she get to Houston? Read on and find out, then come back for Part 2 tomorrow to find out how Houston almost lost her again. 

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This Week In Food Blogs: Go Fried
Chicken-Crazy at The Bird House

Categories: Leftovers

Photo by Stacy Zane
The H-Town StrEATs owners, who just opened a fried chicken place called The Bird House, were robbed at gunpoint on Monday evening.

Culturemap Houston: Eric Sandler posted the lowdown on The Bird House and it's especially worth mentioning now. H-Town StrEATs food truck chefs Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski have opened what's essentially a long-term fried chicken pop-up. It's in the space that normally houses Boil House at 606 East 11th Street in the Heights, which will resume when crawfish season returns. Their food truck, however, was robbed at gunpoint while parked at Beaver's on Monday night. Fortunately, no one was hurt (one of the gunmen actually fired a bullet into the refrigerator) but consider going out and supporting these folks at either The Bird House or the H-Town StrEATs truck. Follow the truck on Twitter to keep up with its current location (once they start taking it out again).

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Review: Ordering Family Style Is a Good Way to Go at Pico's Mex-Mex

Categories: Cafe Reviews

Photos by Troy Fields
The Chiles en Nogada, a seasonal specialty from the state of Puebla, is one of Pico's finest dishes, and is available on their menu year round.
The Chiles en Nogada Tradicionales, a regional specialty from the Mexican state of Puebla, is extraordinary. Typically available only during pomegranate season in Mexico, the pulled-pork filled poblano chiles, topped with a creamy walnut sauce and fresh pomegranate kernels, are so in demand that they've become a permanent feature on the menu at Pico's Mex-Mex.

Order this one to share because the rich, somewhat sweet meat (the meat is cooked with aromatics and dried fruits) and walnut cream topping can be cloying if too much of it is eaten continuously.

Likewise, the Chamorro de Puerco con Verdolagas en Salsa Verde is a sublime creation of fall-off-the-bone pork shank in a viscous tomatillo sauce speckled with still-crisp leaves of wilted purslane. Presented with the bone sticking straight up and stewed until the gelatinous cartilage and meat fibers had melded together, the meat flaked off the bone in juicy, fork-tender clumps.

Piling the meat and sauce generously onto a house-made flour tortilla is a delicious if somewhat dangerous endeavor -- make sure to lean over the table so any drippings land there or on a plate.

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Try These Seven Non-Burger Sliders in Houston

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
Little Big's does sliders right.
These days, there's way more to sliders than just burgers. And while we of course love the mini beefcakes, we're pretty excited to see some new kids on the block. From a breakfast treat to mini dogs, here are five new kinds of sliders to check out in Houston:

Chili Cheese Dog Sliders
Where to find them: Little Bigs

Little Big's has long been the king of sliders, offering the tiny sandwiches in burger, pulled pork, and fried chicken form. But last year, the almighty trio got an upgrade when the restaurant added Nathan's slider-sized hot dogs to the menu. They're almost too cute to eat....almost. We love them smothered in slow-cooked chili, shredded cheese, and jalapeƱos from the toppings bar.

Pancake Sliders
Where to find them: Union Kitchen

If breakfast appetizers aren't a thing that you participate in yet, they totally should be. UK proves that with these miniature pancake sandwiches, which get the royal treatment with a Canadian bacon, breakfast sausage, and fried egg filling. Share these with friends and thank us later.

This story continues on the next page.

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First Look at Pho & Crab Restaurant, A New Vietnamese Restaurant on Houston's West Side

Photo by Mai Pham
What do you order at a restaurant called "Pho & Crab?" Pho and crab.

Approaching from the west, the prominent signage of the one month old Pho & Crab Restaurant is easy to spot. The letters are in bold, the sign's black background pops, and, despite the neon brightness of the Ninfa's sign behind it (its neighbor), the words Pho & Crab Restaurant Vietnamese Cuisine stand out.

That's definitely going to be one of the restaurant's advantages. The fact that it's probably the only Vietnamese restaurant in the near vicinity of Memorial Drive and Dairy Ashford is another. If it's aiming to become the neighborhood Vietnamese hotspot, it's got a good chance, a fact that was underscored during a late Sunday evening visit, when the restaurant was lightly occupied by tables of different age groups and ethnicities.

Like most Vietnamese restaurants, the menu is fairly large, encompassing way more than just pho and crab (there are appetizers, rice plates, rice vermicelli dishes, wok entrees and curries), though it's probably a safe bet to start with those two dishes. We made sure to order both of these, getting a bowl of the "singed beef" pho on the recommendation of Andrew Tran, the general manager. We also ordered the tamarind dungeness crab (they also offer the king crab and soft shell crab, as well a salt and pepper flavor in lieu of the tamarind), a Vietnamese delicacy that is hard to master.

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Chicken Sandwich Chronicles: Jerrybuilt

Categories: Meat!, On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
This might taste better than the burger version.
Following a less-than-stellar experience with Smashburger's chicken sandwiches, advice poured in as to where better versions could be found.

Among those venues suggested was JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers, whose seasonal burgers, at least, have been impressive.

In fact, prior to the chicken sandwich tipoff, I had planned a trip to the restaurant to try their special September burgers designed by local food writers and bloggers as part of JerryBuilt's ambassador program.

Two chickens could be killed with one stone during this visit, however, as almost all the ambassador burgers can be made with a chicken breast rather than a beef patty.

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