Rebecca Masson and Brandi Key Join Forces for a Pop-Up Dinner Sunday

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Pastry chef Rebecca Masson and chef Brandi Key are cooking this Sunday for an Aces of Taste pop-up dinner.

Pastry chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar (expected to open in Midtown next month) and executive chef Brandi Key of both Coppa Osteria and Punk's Simple Southern Food will cook for an Aces of Taste pop-up this Sunday, March 22.

Aces of Taste is a dinner series that happens on roughly a monthly basis. Past chefs have included Chris Williams of Lucille's and Mike Potowski of Benjy's. The events are held in varying locations, and this one is at Bodega 1617 Wine Bar at 1617 Richmond.

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Best Food We Found at the Houston Rodeo This Year

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
If you see the Go Tejano booth, stop by. It's staffed by volunteers and the money raised goes to the rodeo scholarship fund.

We covered food at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo carnival last week during the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Competition, but many vendors didn't start serving until the rodeo officially started on yesterday. We went back to see what new tasty goodies we could find. This was what we found on-the-fly--the Gold Buckle Foodie competition is tomorrow, so we'll follow up with a list of the official winners.

If you've been to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo before, then you know it's a vast property. We explored the two huge tents of food set up next to NRG Center as well as some vendors that extend around the back of Kids Country.

For those of you who are hoping for a quality alcoholic beverage to go with your selections--good luck. Your best bet is to head to the lovely Champion Wine Garden instead and if you don't like wine--well, sorry. We didn't see any craft beer at all, and it's a real pity because most of the food we tried would have been even better with great beer alongside. Skip those margaritas by-the-yard, too. Those scary neon green and pink abominations are completely gross. They taste like they were made with Sprite syrup and Zima.

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Best Carnival Food at the Houston Rodeo This Year

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Don't settle for eating just anything at the carnival. Go for the good stuff!

There are dozens of food booths and a vast selection of tasty and downright clever things to eat at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo NOV Carnival. Why settle for a boring turkey leg when you can get one wrapped in bacon? Do you want to be seen eating fried Twinkies and Oreos? That's so passé now. A slice of deep-fried pecan pie is where it's at.

It may be carnival food, but there's no reason not to eat in style. Here are just a few of the good (albeit not necessarily good for you) things we found to eat.

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Why I Love Greenling

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Made from a Greenling meal kit: vegetarian tortilla soup with black bean, cheese and salsa quesadillas on the side

UPDATE: December 3, 2014: After this blog went live, we received some questions about Greenling and local farmers. In a followup post, we went straight to the source to find out what "local" means and to answer the following: does Greenling really help local farmers?

It's always lame to hear about people talk about how busy they are. We're all busy these days. With that being said, as someone who's currently juggling a dual career as a writer and as an IT consultant, I'm probably busier than most.

My days usually start between 4 and 6 a.m. I get up, write for a few hours, then put on my consultant garb and go downtown to take care of my IT clients.

Lunchtime is almost always a "working" lunch. I may interview a chef or check out a new restaurant. Houston's dining scene is so incredibly active that there's almost always some kind of event or review visit in the evening. To retain some personal sanity (and get to see my college-aged kids who are still living at home), I try and stick to a rule that I only go out on assignment every other night.

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From Dangerous to Delightful: Uchi's Moss Dish

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Phaedra Cook
The Matsutake dish at Uchi Houston includes a lichen (referred to colloquially as "reindeer moss") that requires special preparation to transform it from dangerous to delectable.

The string of text messages began with a photo. It was a plate of lovely, unidentifiable green puff balls accented with slices of mushrooms, grilled so precisely that there were criss-cross grill marks, just as one might see on a steak.

The photo and subsequent message were from an exuberant friend in the restaurant industry. We'll call him "Gordon." Gordon is, in fact, made of exuberance. He texts me only when he's excited about something, whether it be a costume party or a something else he thinks is fascinating. I shall paraphrase the conversation:

"This moss dish is at Uchi! It's poisonous if prepared incorrectly! Total delish!"

I search my feelings to find my motivation to eat poison. I am unsuccessful.

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Eat This: The Salted Caramel Peanut Tart at Tout Suite

Photo by Molly Dunn
The Salted Caramel Peanut Tart at Tout Suite is a work of art.
Before Tout Suite opened in East Downtown, I knew the cafe would be serving incredible desserts and pastries, like those delicate macarons and beautiful cupcakes sold at the sister bakery, Sweet in CityCentre, along with a savory menu served throughout the day. But, the tarts and treats were a surprise.

As I stared at the gorgeous display of bright yellow mango passion tart cakes, matcha green tea chiffon cakes and lemon yuzu tarts, one of the employees approached me asking if I had any questions about the offerings at Tout Suite. I told him I was interested in purchasing the "Paris Houston," a chocolate almond cake with a fruit filling and a generous topping of swirled frosting, but he advised me to choose a different pastry, the Salted Caramel Peanut Tart.

He said it is one of the best offerings in the display case, and that he was one of the chefs who makes the pastries at Tout Suite.

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Eat This: Summer Salad and Crawdads Biscuit at Punk's

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Crawdads Biscuit

The calendar says September, but it still feels like summer in Houston, so why not indulge in some warm-weather fare as long as it's on offer? See Punk's Simple Southern Food, where one of the best things on the current menu is the "Summer Salad." Although most patrons go to Punk's for the fried chicken (despite its high price tag), you will be just as satiated (in a different, less bloated way) by ordering this sweet, refreshing assemblage.

With a spinach and romaine lettuce, over-sized candied pecans, mandarin orange slices, strawberries and avocado bits all dressed in a strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette, the salad might verge on cloying if not for the earthy salt from the pecans and creamy botanical flavors of the avocado.

Ask for the dressing on the side to fully appreciate the salad's "naked" flavor, which is arguable as just as good plain as dressed. Also know that the Summer Salad is certainly enough for one at lunchtime but also great to split at dinner, especially as a precursor to richer dishes. And speaking of which...

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Eat This: Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Cakeballs & Macarons at Petite Sweets

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Molly Dunn
It may be hot outside, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a pumpkin spice latte with macarons and cakeballs at Petite Sweets.
The first official day of fall is Tuesday, September 23, and you know what that means: pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin. Throughout this autumnal season, recipes for pumpkin breads, muffins, cakes and pies will flood the Internet (or more accurately, will continue to) through a variety of social media outlets -- I'm talking about you, Pinterest.

Don't be like the rest of the world and frequent Starbucks for a PSL. Instead, visit Petite Sweets for a creamy, scrumptious pumpkin spice latte paired with one or a few of their delightful miniature pumpkin-flavored treats.

After seeing a post of a large frothy pumpkin spice latte surrounded by pumpkin pie macarons on the Petite Sweets Facebook page this past week, I couldn't help but stop by the West Alabama dessert shop this weekend. Aside from pumpkin pie macarons, Petite Sweets also carries miniature pumpkin pies, whoopie pies, cupcakes and cake balls, along with honey apple cupcakes for the fall season, too.

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My Preferred Hangover Cure, and More, at Juan Mon's International Sandwiches

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Nath Pizzolatto
Outside Juan Mon's, at the intersection of Taft and Webster.
Juan Mon's is unassuming. Driving down Taft Street, you could easily miss it, and probably have already: From that vantage point, the view of the restaurant is mostly that of an alcove evidently once intended as a drive-thru, where a food truck which has clearly fallen out of use resides, and weeds have sprouted in the cracks in the driveway. From that view, it'd be easy to mistake the location as a restaurant that closed long ago.

That's a shame, because that view conceals a restaurant that boasts one of the biggest and best sandwich menus in town-- and all of them an affordable $6, a refreshing change from the trend of delis and cafés offering sandwiches that cost twice as much but don't merit it.

At the corner of Taft and Webster, Juan Mon's International Sandwiches seems nearly invisible from the vantage point described above. From Webster, though, the entrance and outdoor patio can be clearly seen, and inside is a small but festively-decorated restaurant with several televisions and a full bar in addition to the sandwich menu.

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Eat This: Dry-Style Beef Chow Fun at House of Bowls

Photo by Mai Pham
House of Bowl's dry-style beef chow fun is hearty, inexpensive and delicious.

Driving on Bellaire Boulevard to get to the majority of Chinatown eateries has been a challenge for some time now. The construction on Bellaire Boulevard in areas with the densest concentration of good eats has been ongoing mercilessly for at least a year, and traffic, not to mention safety issues arise for those planning to venture to this part of town.

The hardest restaurants to reach are the ones where there is no stop sign or signal, requiring cars to stop traffic in order to turn left or right to reach the parking lots housing the restaurants. Enter House of Bowls, located off the main Bellaire drag in a small strip mall on Corporate Drive. Reaching the restaurant is relatively easy because there's a lighted signal onto Corporate, and then navigation into the parking lot is a cinch.

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