Top 5 Ravioli to Try in Houston

Photo by Arturo's Uptown Italiano
Veal Ravioli with Walnuts

Ravioli? Seems so...square. Yes, boring, pedestrian versions abound (thank you, Chef Boyardee). Fortunately, Houston is a bastion of innovative takes on stuffed pasta. Try one of these five standout plates and rethink your stance on ravioli.

5. Veal Ravioli (Arturo's Uptown Italiano). "Earthy" is perhaps the best word to describe Arturo's ravioli. The pasta pockets are filled with supple calf meat, then dressed with with a decadent truffle butter sauce and walnuts, making for a dish that sings of autumn and Italy.

4. Tortelli di Bietola (Giacomo's Cibo e Vino). This dish's description -- "ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, ricotta, goat cheese, sage butter sauce" -- may leave you initially wondering, "Where's the meat"? After one bite, you'll think, "Who the hell cares?" The pairing of two cheeses with a robust herb such as sage and the botanical fiber from the chard means that these ravioli pack a punch in terms of texture, cream, and flavor.

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Breakfasting at Einstein Bros.

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Coupon enticement

Breakfast is the meal I am least likely to eat out. (Brunch, a different story). I'm not usually in the mood to consume a lot of food early in the morning, especially if I am going to go running, which is my usual matutinal practice.

Last week I happened to finish my workout a bit earlier than usual and found myself still within the window of time to order some breakfast fare. I wanted something savory, quick, and probably involving a bagel.

Now, this last preference should have led me directly to The Hot Bagel Shop , but en route I passed by Einstein Bros. and thought, why not? Then, I remembered I had a coupon for $1 off any breakfast sandwich and that sealed the deal.

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Tableside Prime Rib Service and More at Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Mai Pham
If you're craving prime rib, chef Travis Lenig offers personalized service at Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette.
I am always looking at pictures of food. One of my favorite pastimes, it's the reason why my Twitter and Instagram feeds (and now, my Facebook feed) are constantly crammed with photos of food, and why I spend countless hours mentally drooling over pictures of what people are cooking or eating.

On a recent evening, I was doing exactly this when I saw a picture of chef Travis Lenig carving prime rib tableside at the fairly new (it opened this past October) Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette (LKO). Though I'd been planning to visit for some time, at that point I hadn't yet been to the new LKO location.

That picture was all that was needed to seal the deal: I had to have it.

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Passover Staples at Kenny & Ziggy's

Photo courtesy of Paula Murphy
The full Passover spread available at Kenny & Ziggy's

I am so food-obsessed that I use the arrival of every holiday (even if it's in no way associated with my ethnicity/religion/national origin) as an opportunity to eat special food.

Which is why my lapsed Catholic/spiritual-agnostic self is crazy excited for the start of Passover. I don't have a Jewish grandma at home (though in a pinch, my husband will do), so I will have to do a little extra legwork to procure items for my meal. My Passover food will still be homemade...just not in my home.

This year, Kenny & Ziggy's offered a fabulous $400 ginormous "Passover In A Box" package that would have enabled me to hold a baller Passover feast. But I missed the deadline, and let's face it, most of my goyim friends aren't quite as excited as I am to eat gefilte fish.

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The Most Underrated Pizza in Houston... According to You

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
This pizza from Pink's is delish...but probably not underrated.
Okay, Houston, let's talk pizza.

This city has a surprising variety of pizza for a region so burger- and barbecue-happy. There are some incredible Neapolitan-style wood-fired pies from places like Dolce Vita and Pizaro's, late-night munchie slices from Pi Pizza Truck and solid delivery options from Pink's and Pizza L'Vino. Boheme makes unusual lavash pizzas, and Provisions piles on the interesting toppings. We've got it all, except, maybe, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. If someone can find a decent deep-dish pie in Houston, please do let me know!

I also want to know where you go in town for pizza that other people might not consider. Does your favorite greasy pie come from a food court? Is there a bar in town slinging a super slice? Is there, after all, a great spot for some Chicago-style pizza?

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Supper To Go From Miss Saigon Cafe

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Blink and you'll miss Miss Saigon Cafe.

Even though I spent five years at Rice getting my graduate degree, I didn't visit Miss Saigon Cafe in the Village until long after I had finished my studies. I think I subconsciously avoided the restaurant because Miss Saigon is the Broadway musical I love to hate. Or actually, mostly hate. (That helicopter scene? Yikes.)

However, because I've been spending more time than I usually do in Rice Village lately, I finally ambled over to Miss Saigon Cafe for some takeout supper one day after a rather intense afternoon of composing elegant scholarly prose watching YouTube cat videos at Salento.

I was and am sort of sick of pho. (There -- I said it! Who's with me?!?) I was more interested in trying one of Miss Saigon's rice and protein dishes. From this admittedly rather broad category of dishes, I was actually able to whittle down my choices to either the caramelized ginger chicken or the stuffed tofu. I ultimately decided on the latter because, while I have mastered making many poultry entrées, I am not so skilled at stuffing tofu.

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Top 5 Tortellini to Try in Houston

Photo courtesy of Paula Murphy
Tortellini at Trevisio

For Lent this year I considered saying "basta" to pasta in an attempt to eat more vegetables and protein. Thank God I had a change of heart, because it seems like every day I run into another scrumptious macaroni dish. My penchant for stuffed pasta, in combination with my fascination with ring-shaped foods, means I naturally gravitate toward tortellini (and their more buxom cousin tortelloni). Here are five to try in Houston:

5. Tortellini al sugo rosa (Giacomo's Cibo e Vino). There are many things to love about Giacomo's, such as the inventive array of cicchetti and the succulent secondi, but if you do not sample stuffed homemade pasta during your visit, you have missed out. The meat and cheese tortellini can be dressed with three different sauces (parmesan cream, tomato, and tomato cream), all of which robustly flavorful. The sugo rosa (tomato and cream), however, is my favorite for the way it balances garden flavors with decadent dairy.

4. Tortellini with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (Papa Mio Italian Cafe). Old-school, Italian-American restaurants like Papa Mio can break the rules in terms of culinary propriety and offer things like a create-your-own pasta option rather than forcing diners into more traditional flavor combinations. Their plump meat or spinach and cheese tortellini go from merely satisfying to snazzy with the addition of some red-pepper pesto. If the mild heat overwhelms you, just request some extra grated cheese.

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UPDATE: Where to Eat on Easter Day (2014)

Photo by Robert S. Donovan
Easter is almost here. Make your brunch reservations ASAP.
Some of you may be wondering, "When is Easter?" And I bet those of you who gave something up for Lent know exactly when Easter is (you've been counting down the days). Well, this special holiday is Sunday, April 20, and the best way to celebrate any weekend holiday is with brunch, no?.

Many restaurants in our city and its environs are hosting Easter brunches, and some are offering dinner, too. So, to help make your life easier when deciding where to dine out this Easter, we've compiled a list of restaurants offering specials. As always, make your reservations sooner rather than later to ensure you, your family and your friends have somewhere to eat. So, hop to it and check out our guide to Easter brunching.

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Caracol: Go for the Oysters, Stay for Delicious Drinks and Desserts

Photo courtesy Caracol
Save room for dessert at this coastal seafood restaurant.
For last week's cafe review I visited Caracol, the new Mexican seafood restaurant from Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught, and noted that while there are some truly stellar plates on the menu, the sheer number of items being prepared in the kitchen is perhaps resulting in some dishes being less than they could be, quality-wise. Some things seemed to get lost in translation between the menu, the kitchen and my table, with several items not living up to what I've come to expect from Ortega and Vaught, who also own Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe.

Still, much of the food is very good, and the desserts and drinks are stellar. I don't always mention desserts and alcohol in my reviews unless the restaurant has a very clear focus on them. In my review of Caracol, I simply ran out of space, but I definitely think that the pastries by Ortega's brother Ruben Ortega, and the wine and cocktail menu by Sean Beck, who's been with the company for more than 14 years, are in perfect focus.

Here's why I'd recommend not leaving Caracol without dipping into a few drinks and the majestic El Coco.

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Dinner Delicacies at the New Local Foods

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Lamb plate (takeout, replated.)

When Local Foods opened its first location, I worried about its proximity to my gym. It continues to be difficult not to give in to the temptation to reward myself with a truffle egg salad sandwich and seven-layer bar every time I have a good workout.

With the launch of a second Local Foods so close to my house, I'm just going to reconcile myself to the fact that I will be giving its owners a good portion of my paycheck on a regular basis.

The daytime menu offers many of the dishes that have come to be favorites at the West University location (e.g., the crispy chicken sandwich), as well as some new additions. What I'm most compelled by at the Upper Kirby branch? That would be the dinner plates.

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