Chocolate and Charity: Cacao & Cardamom and the Chester Pitts Foundation

Categories: Sweets

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Annie Rupani, Chester Pitts and kids from his foundation received exposure to the fine art of chocolate-making at Cacao & Cardamom.

Sometimes when people are trying to do something good, challenges arise. Such was the case when Cacao & Cardamom at 5000 Westheimer joined forces with former Houston Texan Chester Pitts last week to host a group of kids, show them how chocolates are made and sell chocolates to raise money for the foundation.

Traffic all around the shop was excruciatingly slow, making almost everyone on the way to the event late. The Galleria area intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak seemed to be the nexus of the problem. I left from Uptown Park and it was a 25-minute slog to make it a mile down the street. My photographer-husband was coming from the other direction and it took him longer to get from Highway 59 and Sage to the shop than it did for him to get to that exit all the way from Katy.

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Chef Chat, Part 2: How to Make Chex Mix With Crickets

Categories: Chef Chat

Who among us doesn't have some sour cream and onion crickets sitting in our pantry that we don't know what to do with?

OK, so the odds of you actually having any crickets, let alone those of the sour cream and onion variety, in your pantry (or anywhere else in your kitchen) are probably pretty slim, but watching the above video makes a pretty good case for why maybe you should.

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The 5 Best Happy Hours in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

Photo by Troy Fields
We don't know what's nicer. Cottonwood's bar or the giant outdoor patio.
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 we're moving just outside the loop to the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest.

Note: For purposes of this post, Garden Oaks / Oak Forest is defined as north of Loop 610, east of Highway 290, south of Tidwell and west of Shepherd.

Honorable Mention: Free wine tastings at Plonk Beer & Wine Bistro (follow them on Facebook for updates).

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UPDATED: High Profile Houston Bartender Leaves Sanctuari Within a Month of Opening

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Competition-winning bartender Leslie Ross has made an abrupt departure from the brand-new Sanctuari bar at Triniti Restuarant

Updated 11/26/14, 6:16 p.m.: Two industry insiders have independently contacted me, saying that Ross has left Sanctuari/Triniti to join Treadsack, the group behind Down House, D&T Drive Inn and the forthcoming restaurants Hunky Dory, Foreign Correspondents and the just-announced Bernadine's.

Additionally, information has been relayed to the Houston Press that Treadsack is also the entity leasing the space that was formerly The Boom Boom Room, which closed last Saturday. It is unclear whether the space will be used for the forthcoming Foreign Correspondents restaurant or a new, unannounced project. Caroline May, director of public relations for Treadsack, responded this afternoon to an emailed inquiry saying she is "unable to confirm anything at this time."

A reader tipped off the Houston Press that Leslie Ross, a high profile bartender who co-headed the new Sanctuari Bar at Triniti, has left the bar mere weeks after its grand opening. The information has since been confirmed by an industry insider.

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The Ultimate Chef's Table: An Evening at Kipper Club Test Kitchen

Photo by Mai Pham
The community table takes center stage and overlooks the open kitchen at Kipper Club Test Kitchen.
Kipper Club Test Kitchen is housed in what one might call an alternative space. There is no parking, so you have to park offsite and shuttle to your dinner, and once you arrive, you're at a Shell gas station. Literally.

Next to the gas station convenience store, there's a sign that says "Tippy's Soul Food," and it's not until you come close that you see small white window sign displaying the Kipper Club fish logo. As the saying goes, however, "Don't judge a book by it's cover," because waiting inside is a refurbished warehouse space designed for a high-end pop-up dining experience.

For last week's pop-up harvest dinner featuring chef Zachary Ladwig, diners were greeted at the door by Kipper Club's general manager, Graham Laborde. It was open seating, and in the far back of the large rectangular room, the chefs and kitchen staff were already hard at work prepping the amuse bouche.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Melissa Hudnall, Bug Chef at HMNS

Categories: Chef Chat

"I think it's a good idea to cook with bugs because they're so plentiful so you might as well bite back," says Melissa Hudnall of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Now sure, as the Bug Chef for the HMNS she's probably a bit biased toward the idea of eating bugs, but she does have a point: bugs are everywhere and putting them in their place isn't the worst idea in the world.

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This Week In Food Blogs: Are You Ready For Thanksgiving?

Categories: Leftovers

Photo by Ryan Hyde via Flickr Creative Commons
Here's wishing you a happy, moist and succulent Turkey Day. Wait, was that creepy?

Have you still not made your Thanksgiving dining plans? Hank on Food has prepared his own list of recommendations on where you can dine on Thanksgiving Day, including Kiran's (4100 Westheimer) unique melding of traditional dishes with Indian flavors. The Tandoori Turkey sounds really intriguing.

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Can a Bad Valet Ruin a Restaurant Experience?

Categories: Leftovers

Photo by Troy Fields
Getting to here and out again shouldn't have to be that tricky
Whether it be good or bad, does the experience with a restaurant valet belong as part of a review?

That was a question Houston Press Editor-in-chief Margaret Downing and I struggled with after my visits to KUU. In January 2010, former restaurant critic Robb Walsh decided that it did upon going to the now-closed Branchwater Tavern and finding every single space in the parking lot coned off. His answer was to run over one of the cones and go inside anyway, despite the protests of the valet. His response: "Call a tow truck, I'm going in the restaurant."

In this case, though, to adequately describe what happened at KUU would have taken up a lot of precious copy space--words that were better put to use in describing the food. Ultimately, we opted to document the incidents as a supplementary blog post rather than as part of the review itself.

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Review: KUU Needs to Work on Consistently Good Cooking, but the Seafood is Wonderful

Categories: Cafe Reviews

Photos by Troy Fields
The kanpaccio features rosette-shaped pieces of fish with ingredients that include soy and fruit soaked in sake.
The kanpaccio, a word play on "carpaccio" and "kanpachi," or mature amberjack, is a dish that delights every taste bud. Rich slices of fish, shaped into rosettes, gather a bit of heat from small green slices of fresh Thai pepper before being bounced back and forth between the salinity of tobiko and soy and the sweet fruitiness of a fresh slice of orange and halved red grapes that were soaked in sake.

It's a signature dish for KUU, a Japanese fine-dining establishment in Gateway Memorial City that opened in February under the deft hand of chef Adison Lee. Lee trained under Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa, a pioneer of modern Japanese cuisine, and it shows. Lee's sashimi dishes are similar in style to Nobu's, with garnishes and accoutrements meant to enhance their flavor and appearance.

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Eat This: Duck Confit Sandwich at Local Foods

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Duck Confit Sandwich
Planning some holiday shopping in Rice Village this weekend? Something tells me you won't be alone. To fuel your retail binge as well as restore your faith in humanity after another crazy shopper snatches that last model on the shelf just as you were obviously about to grab it, take a breath and take a break at Local Foods.

It's within walking distance of the main shopping streets but sufficiently set apart from the high-traffic areas so that you don't have to wade through the slow-walking, unwashed masses to get inside.

This is not to say, however, that Local Foods won't be busy, for their solid selection of regionally-sourced dishes have attracted a loyal following, particularly among residents of the neighboring apartment buildings.

This story continues on the next page.

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