Our 10 Favorite Affordable Luxuries: Treat Yourself This New Year
Most of our readers will hopefully remember Robin Leach's signature sign-off at the end of each episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous during the show's decade-long run: "Champagne wishes and caviar dreams."
As far as sign-offs go, the phrase is no Walter Cronkite's "...and that's the way it is," nor Edward R. Murrow's famous "Good night, and good luck." But over the course of 11 years, the cheesy catchphrase helped to cement America's notion of champagne and caviar as symbols of the wealthy, luxuries only to be enjoyed by the rich and/or famous.
To that, I say pfffft. Sure, these luxuries aren't meant to be enjoyed every day (or else the term "luxury" itself would quickly become moot). But that doesn't mean you can't treat yourself every once in a while. If you have a little holiday spending money left over after shopping -- or perhaps some cash that Grandma tucked into your Christmas or Hanukkah cards -- here are our favorite places to indulge without completely breaking the bank.
10. Oysters on the half-shell at Gilhooley's
Photo by Daniel Kramer The chargrilled and butter-laden Oysters Gilhooley are a treat, too.
Cost: $9.50/dozen, plus the cost of gas
What you get: The freshest oysters in the greater Houston area -- although you'll have to drive down to San Leon to get them. For some, the biggest luxuries of eating at Gilhooley's are the twin benefits of being able to smoke inside the ramshackle old restaurant and not having to deal with any children (kids under 18 are strictly forbidden here). For me, however, it's the knowledge that the fat, buttery Gulf oysters I'm eating came straight off the boat no more than a few yards away.
9. Lunch martinis at Brennan's
Photo by Troy Fields Order the shrimp and grits - or any lunch entree - at Brennan's, and get a 25-cent martini.
Cost: 25 cents, plus the cost of an entree
What you get: If you're taking the day off or simply playing hooky from work, do it in style at the oh-so-elegant Brennan's where the cost of the martinis at lunch are more in line with a hole-in-the-wall's daily happy hour specials. Order any entree (the shrimp and grits are naturally my favorite) and your martini is only 25 cents. One shiny quarter. Every week day until 3 p.m., with no other catches. And you even get to choose the flavor: cosmo, melon or the standard, old-fashioned gin martini.
8. Lazy Lane frites at Brasserie 19
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Lazy Lane frites at Brasserie 19.
What you get: If you think that $21 is too much to pay for a plate of french fries, you haven't tasted chef Amanda McGraw's Lazy Lane frites at Brasserie 19. Your perfectly fried Belgian-style frites are topped with sauce au poivre from Brasserie's terrific steaks, a scattering of chives, freshly-grated Parmesan, truffle oil and -- the coup de grace -- a wonderfully unctuous lobe of seared foie gras, which melts onto the hot fries like goose liver butter. I recommend it as Houston's best bar snack at Brasserie's cool marble bar with one of bartender Joe Stark's excellent Sazeracs, or -- if you want to stick with the Belgian theme -- a bottle of Saison Dupont.