On May 20, the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas and True Italian Taste present the Authentic Italian Table: A Celebration of Pasta, Italy's Gift to the World. The event will take place at Bayou City Event Center, 9401 Knight Road, from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include free parking, wine and samples from over twenty Houston-area restaurants. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com.
According to Italian film director, Federico Fellini, "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." I believe that pasta itself is magical. Imagining a world without it would be practically im"pasta"ble. Spaghetti, fettuccine and lasagna may be the most common types, but this versatile gift from Italy comes in hundreds of shapes and sizes.
Making fresh pasta may seem like a daunting task, but the results are worth it. One of my favorite dishes is the Pappardelle Bolognese from Papa Amadeus. I reached out to owner Art Huerta to see if I could stop by for a quick lesson in pasta making. Papa Amadeus is a locally-owned restaurant in Spring, Texas. Huerta opened the restaurant to honor his grandfather, who was a fantastic baker. Huerta has over 20 years in the restaurant business and has worked for many Italian restaurants throughout Houston.
I met up with Chef Rodrigo Soriano to begin my quick course in pasta making. Pasta can be made with flour and water or flour and eggs. Pappardelle is a thick, flat ribbon-shaped pasta made with egg. The egg gives it a richer taste and the yolk adds a touch of color. Chef Rodrigo made the dough the day before so that it would have time to rest before stretching. The dough is run thorough a pasta machine several times until it is the right thickness. It is then folded and cut into strips. Sounds easy, right?
After taking the time to make homemade pasta, the last thing you want to do is over cook it. Pasta should be cooked al dente, which means it is still firm when bitten. You don't want pasta that is going to turn to mush when topped with sauce. Now, I normally order my pappardelle with Bolognese, which is a rich, meaty sauce. Today, Chef Rodrigo chose a lighter sauce to highlight the freshness of the pasta. Onion, garlic and tomatoes were gently sautéed in olive oil before adding crab meat. The pappardelle was then added to the pan for a quick toss in the sauce to absorb all the wonderful flavors.
The finished product was a beautiful and flavorful dish that showcased the versatility of pasta. It was paired with a lovely Nebbiolo, another wonderful gift from Italy. Pappardelle gets it's name from the verb pappare, which means "to gobble up". I did indeed gobble up this dish and I look forward to many more memorable pasta meals. Buon Appetito!
Note: This blog post has been entered into the 2018 Houston Pasta Blogger Competition.
The Cottonmouth Club, 108 Main St., opens for business on April 13th. Located in the former space of Barringer Bar, the club promises a cocktail experience like no other. The collaboration between Reserve 101 co-founder Mike Raymond and bartender Michael Neff, took four years to come to fruition. I was fortunate to get a preview of the bar prior to today's official opening. What did I think? I loved everything about it. Great drinks, cool '70s vibe and friendly, approachable staff.
At The Cottonmouth Club, it's all about the experience. Several different shapes and sizes of glassware are available for guest to choose. The wand may choose you in Harry Potter, but here you choose the glass. I picked a simple, yet elegant martini glass. Before making my drink, bar director Michael Neff asked me a few simple questions. "Spring or Autumn? Shaken and refreshing or stirred and boozy?" I went with spring and stirred and boozy. The result was one of the best drinks I have ever tasted. What was in it? Who knows. What's more important is that I loved it.
The upstairs event space is a sharp contrast to the loungey ambiance of downstairs. Original paintings by Raymond of Texas music icons Kam Franklin, Lightnin' Hopkins and Billy Gibbons adorn the walls. Hard-wood floors and exposed brick help create an atmosphere that is classy and relaxing.
Expect the cocktail menu to include classics as well as familiar drinks with a twist. Whiskey lovers can enjoy a glass of a house blended barrel-aged bourbon or a sip of High West's A Midwinter Night's Dram. According to Raymond and Neff, The Cottonmouth Club will be "the least cocktail-y cocktail bar."
The Cottonmouth Club, 108 Main St. - Open daily 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Burger fans rejoice! Shake Shack in Rice Village is open for business. Located at 6205 Kirby Drive, the new location is light and bright with plenty of street and metered parking. The wraparound patio is pet friendly and guests can play with giant Jenga and Connect Four games. The green architecture and eco-friendly construction is evident in the unique design elements such as tables made from reclaimed bowling alley lanes and chairs made with sustainable material.
Shake Shack serves 100% all-natural Angus beef burgers, chicken sandwiches and Vienna beef flat-top hot dogs. Guests can enjoy all their favorite Shake classics including the exclusive Texas Lockhart Link Burger, a cheeseburger topped with Kreuz Market jalapeno cheese sausage links. Frozen custard concretes will get a local twist with the addition of seasonal pies (Pie Oh My) and unicorn bait cookies (West U-nicorn) from Fluff Bake Bar.
In keeping with their mission to Stand For Something Good, Shake Shack will donate 5% of sales from their Pie Oh My concrete to the Houston Humane Society. While you enjoy your shake, your furry friend can enjoy a bag of specially made dog biscuits. Shake Shack even has special bowls for Fido to quench his thirst. Humans can wash down their burgers with brews from Saint Arnold, Karbach, Back Pew, Shiner and the exclusive Brooklyn Brewery ShackMeister Ale.
Sunday – Thursday 11am-10pm
Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm
Sud Italia has been a Rice Village staple for excellent Italian food for the past three years. The recent addition of Chef Maurizio Ferrarese has brought a fresh new menu to the cozy ristorante that is exciting and delicious. Italian food might bring to mind images of heavy sauces and rich pasta dishes, but the focus at Sud Italia is on coastal Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables.
Italian wine expert, Jeremy Parzen, recently invited members of the Houston Food Blogger Collective to preview Sud Italia's upcoming family-style dinner. The Cena di Famiglia (family dinner) will be offered on Wednesdays for $50 and seating is limited. The menu will change weekly, but will feature an assortment of Italian classics such as antipasto, crudo, seafood and meat dishes, and of course pasta.
Laughing and eating with my fellow bloggers reminded me of meals I've had in Italy where dinner is not just about great food, but enjoying the company of others. We started the meal with crostini, olives and stuffed peppers followed by a beautiful octopus salad. The Ahi tuna and snapper crudo were very popular at our table. I was delighted to see a seafood pasta with a gnocchi I learned how to make while in Florence. My absolute favorite dish of the night was the strozzapreti with short rib ragu.
In addition to the Family Dinner, Sud Italia has several exciting events coming up. On March 8, they will feature a Wines of Ruffino dinner for $59.50. The four-course dinner will include a Greppone Mazzi 2012 Brunello di Montalcino. To celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe, a special dinner will take place on March 19. The Sicilian-style wine dinner is just $59 and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Houston Food Bank. For reservation call the restaurant at (713) 664-7571.
The 5th Annual Houston Caffeine Crawl took place February 23-24. The two-day event included a choice of six different routes in various neighborhoods throughout the city. Over fifteen local cafes and roasters participated in this year's crawl. This was my first ever caffeine crawl and my chosen route would take me to five cafes I have never visited. My java journey started on Saturday afternoon at Cafeza.
I arrived early at Cafeza to indulge in brunch before the start of the crawl. Our host for the day greeted us with a smile and gave a brief overview of the day's route. Cafeza is owned by a husband and wife team that were inspired by the cafes they experienced while traveling in Barcelona. It has an easy going ambiance and serves wine, beer, coffee and tea. We were treated to a Cafe Agridolce coffee cocktail, which was my favorite taste of the day.
Next stop was the Paper Co. Cafe, which has their own in-house roaster and uses Mueva coffee. Paper Co. is more than just a coffee shop, they care about the community. Profits go toward providing for Houston's homeless and everyday a community meal is offered on a sliding scale fee. The menu includes made from scratch lunch and brunch items.
At Inversion Coffee House we were treated to an affogato made with Greenway Coffee and gelato from Dolce Neve. This light and bright artsy shop has a great menu with a diverse selection of gourmet coffees and pastries. The next stop, Blacksmith Houston, also featured Greenway Coffee. Here we sat outside on the patio and learned a little about their roasting process. We were then given samples of plain coffee which had excellent flavor.
Last stop was at Southside Espresso, the second smallest coffee shop in Houston. We learned about Fusion Beans and Sumatra coffee from owner Sean Marshall. A sample of Spiced Honey Butter Latte was the perfect way to end the day. I found some new favorite spots along the way and I'm looking forward the next year's crawl.
This February there's plenty to love about Perry's Steakhouse. New locations, new cocktails, and new specials. The Memorial City location was recently renovated to include a fresh new decor, more windows for natural light, and remodeled banquet rooms. This past week, Perry's opened their third location in North Texas with a 10,000 square-foot restaurant in Grapevine. Slated to open later in 2018 will be Perry's first restaurant inside the 610 loop. The two-story steakhouse, located in the River Oaks Shopping Center, will be able to accommodate up to 350 guests.
There's now a reason to celebrate Mondays thanks to Perry's new Magnum Monday special. With the purchase of a starter or entree, guests can take advantage of huge savings on Perry's 1.5L reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 10th Anniversay special label Chardonnay is $79 (regularly $115) and the Cabernet is a bargain at $99 (regularly $155).
Corporate Sommelier and Beverage Director Susi Zivanovic has created three new cocktails that pair beautifully with shareable bites that guests can enjoy in the main dining area or at the bar. The Jameson Mocha Old Fashioned gives this classic drink a twist by adding coffee simple syrup and Jameson Caskmates Stout. The Collins get a splash of Rose to give it a subtle pink hue and the use of The Botanist Gin adds a nice herbal note to the finish. Port wine lovers will want to try the PassionNut for Port, made with Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Port and fresh passion fruit puree. Can't decide which one to try? Then try all three as part of of Perry's Martini Flight.
Perry's may be a steakhouse, but their famous seven-finger pork chop is a work of art. The smoky and sweet prime cut of pork is carved table-side into three sections - the eyelash, loin, and ribs. You can now enjoy their famous chop on Sundays from 4 to 9 p.m. for just $34.95. Sunday Supper includes your choice of one of six salads as well as a dessert trio. On Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. guests can dine on a special lunch cut portion with whipped potatoes and applesauce for just $14.95.
Spend Valentine's Day with someone special at Perry's with a specially priced three-course meal. Guests can choose a soup or salad, one entree, and one dessert. Early birds dining before 5:30 p.m. can take advantage of this offer for just $59.95. The cost for reservations 5:45 p.m. or later is $74.95. Space is limited.
Afternoon tea originated in Britain as a way to provide a mini-meal to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. It typically consists of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. Houston's hot spots for tea have menus that vary from traditional to Indian and Italian influenced. So whether you want to feel like royalty or are just feeling a little peckish, these five fabulous tea experiences won't disappoint.
Hotel Granduca Houston serves afternoon tea daily from 2 to 4 p.m. in Ristorante Cavour or in nooks throughout the hotel. Granduca adds an Italian flair to the traditional English tea service with three menu levels ranging in price from $52 to $85. Bubbles, scones, pastries and finger sandwiches are included. A special Bunny tea menu is available for children for $23. Reservations are required.
Radio Milano's High Tea is available in the lobby of Hotel Sorella daily from Noon to 4 p.m. Three tiers of canapes and sweets are available with price ranging from $25 to $45. Each menu includes your choice of 12 different French Dammann Freres teas. Specially selected wines and and six botanically inspired craft cocktails can be purchased a la carte. Reservations are required with a minimum 24 hour notice.
Indulge in an afternoon tea like no other at Kiran. A three course service is $40 and comes with gluten-free and vegetarian options. The traditional menu includes Kiran's special Chai blend with samosas, finger sandwiches with Darjeeling, and scones with Earl Grey. A special menu for young adults is available for $20. Tea service is every Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m. Reservations are required.
The St. Regis Houston Hotel offers a tranquil and luxurious tea experience including butler service and a harpist. Guests can choose from over 25 artisan blends from around the world. Afternoon tea includes signature sandwiches, scones, pastries and macarons. The Traditional menu is available for $49 per person or you can upgrade to the Traditional and Beyond which includes Tea Room Bubbles for $59. Children under 12 are $27. Friday - Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m. and Saturday - Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations required.
Afternoon tea service at Bistro Menil is a relaxing and casual affair available Wednesday to Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. For $45 a person, guests get a glass of bubbly followed by an assortment of sweet and savory bites. Tea options include a selection of black and herbal teas. Advance reservations and a two person minimum is required.
I have been a huge 8th Wonder fan for quite some time, but for some reason I had never actually visited the brewery. Located at 2202 Dallas, 8th Wonder Brewery is open seven days a week. The brewery consists of an indoor taproom and a huge outdoor beer garden and fun zone. Their own food truck, Eatsie Boys is there 7 days a week, but outside food is allowed as well.
Being a UH alum, Cougar Paw is one of my favorite 8th Wonder brews, along with Rocket Fuel. Brewmaster and Co-Founder, Aaron Corsi is not only a fellow UH Cougar, but he currently teaches several courses at the University of Houston on the science of brewing. Now that's a course I wish was offered when I attended!
8th Wonder is only blocks away from Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center and BBVA Compass Stadium. It's the perfect place to pre-game or hang out and watch sports on TV with some of Houston's best brews on draft. Beers are $5 for one token or $15 for 3 tokens and a souvenir glass.
New Orleans is a city of food, fun and festivities, but let's face it, most people equate the city with drinking. Each year, Bourbon street attracts thousands of revelers that can be seen walking the French Quarter with Hurricanes, Hand Grenades and Huge-A** Beers. Perhaps its because I'm getting old and cranky or that I hate crowds, but when I visit NOLA I prefer to drink like a local. This includes visiting some of their amazing craft breweries.
Courtyard Brewery , 1020 Erato Street
This cozy neighborhood nano-brewery is open seven days a week. They have over 24 beers on tap, half of which are their own and the other half include special craft brews from around the world. My Courtyard favorites were the See You In Mexico American Wheat and the Courtyard Peach Double IPA. Courtyard is a cool place to hang out, drink some great beer and peruse the local art hanging on the wall. FYI, parking is very limited.
NOLA Brewing Co., 3001 Tchoupitoulas
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., this tap room has a fantastic selection of sours, ales, porters and stouts. Beers are available in 12-oz. and 16-oz. pours or as a flight of four. I was in a dark beer mood on the day of my visit, so I made sure to include the Irish Channel Stout and Prytania Porter in my flight. The best part about NOLA brewing is the awesome rooftop patio, oh and McClure's BBQ located conveniently inside the tap room.
Port Orleans Brewing Co., 4124 Tchoupitoulas
Open everyday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (except Tuesday), this is my favorite brewery in New Orleans. The tap room is open and airy with lots of seating. You can't go wrong with any of their beers, but the most notable for me are the Riverfront Lager, Storyville IPA, Slack Water Brown Ale, and the unique RoyalTea Pale Ale that's infused with Earl Grey tea. Stokehold Restaurant located inside the tap room cleverly pairs culinary delights with beers on tap. You can dine on roasted bone marrow, grilled shishito peppers and Hungarian Goulash while drinking some of the best beer in NOLA.
Urban South Brewery, 1645 Tchoupitoulas
Laid-back is an good way to describe the ambience at Urban South. The industrial warehouse tap room is open daily (hours vary) and is kid and pet-friendly. Games, picnic tables and pop up seafood boils encourage beer lovers to just hang out. Beers here are light and hoppy with bursts of fruit infused flavors like the Grapefruit Holy Roller IPA. Their new Architecture Series focuses on bolder flavors with a slightly higher ABV. One must try is the seasonal Vietnamese Stout, Ca Phe.
I love cooking, but I absolutely hate grocery shopping. A few times a month I order from a home delivery service just for the convenience. I typically run out of dinner ideas and I love that everything you need comes ready to cook. One day, while at HEB, I noticed their new Simple Meals. They come in a variety of flavors and a meal for two is about $14
Pros: The meal kit comes with everything you need to prepare a quick meal minus a few pantry staples like oil and seasonings. The recipe card is very easy to follow with pictures for each step. Pretty fool proof. The entire process takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Cons: The sauce comes ready to serve which means you can't control the amount of salt or sugar in it, plus it most likely has some preservatives. The rice is pre-cooked as well.
Overall, the taste of the dish was good and it's a great option when you're in a rush. Kits come in several flavors with the option of 2 or 4 servings.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.